Tag Archives: energy

Nuclear war and famine

(News & Editorial/Nuclear war and famine)

 A.  Nuclear war would ‘end civilization’ with famine: study
10 Dec 2013, Phys.org, by Shaun Tandon
Pasted from: http://phys.org/news/2013-12-nuclear-war-civilization-famine.html

Nuc war missile

[Indian Army personnel display an Agni-ll nuclear-capable missile during Indias Repbulic Day parade in New Delhi in Janauary 2006 (AFP)

A nuclear war between India and Pakistan would set off a global famine that could kill two billion people and effectively end human civilization, a study said Tuesday.

Even if limited in scope, a conflict with nuclear weapons would wreak havoc in the atmosphere and devastate crop yields, with the effects multiplied as global food markets went into turmoil, the report said.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and Physicians for Social Responsibility released an initial peer-reviewed study in April 2012 that predicted a nuclear famine could kill more than a billion people.

In a second edition, the groups said they widely underestimated the impact in China and calculated that the world’s most populous country would face severe food insecurity.

“A billion people dead in the developing world is obviously a catastrophe unparalleled in human history. But then if you add to that the possibility of another 1.3 billion people in China being at risk, we are entering something that is clearly the end of civilization,” said Ira Helfand, the report’s author.

Helfand said that the study looked at India and Pakistan due to the longstanding tensions between the nuclear-armed states, which have fought three full-fledged wars since independence and partition in 1947.

But Helfand said that the planet would expect a similar apocalyptic impact from any limited nuclear war. Modern nuclear weapons are far more powerful than the US bombs that killed more than 200,000 people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

“With a large war between the United States and Russia, we are talking about the possible — not certain, but possible — extinction of the human race.

“In this kind of war, biologically there are going to be people surviving somewhere on the planet but the chaos that would result from this will dwarf anything we’ve ever seen,” Helfand said.

The study said that the black carbon aerosol particles kicked into the atmosphere by a South Asian nuclear war would reduce US corn and soybean production by around 10 percent over a decade.

The particles would also reduce China’s rice production by an average of 21 percent over four years and by another 10 percent over the following six years.

nuc war wheatThe updated study also found severe effects on China’s wheat, which is vital to the country despite its association with rice.

China’s wheat production would plunge by 50 percent the first year after the nuclear war and would still be 31 percent below baseline a decade later, it said.

The study said it was impossible to estimate the exact impact of nuclear war. He called for further research, voicing alarm that policymakers in nuclear powers were not looking more thoroughly at the idea of a nuclear famine.

But he said, ultimately, the only answer was the abolition of nuclear weapons.

“This is a disaster so massive in scale that really no preparation is possible. We must prevent this,” he said.

President Barack Obama pledged in 2009 to work toward abolition but said that the United States would keep nuclear weapons so long as others exist. Nine countries are believed to possess nuclear weapons, with Russia and the United States holding the vast majority.

B.  Nuclear famine
How a Regional Nuclear War Will Cause Global Mass Starvation
Pasted from: http://ippnweducation.wordpress.com/nuclearfamine/

Climate scientists who worked with the late Carl Sagan in the 1980s to document the threat of nuclear winter have produced disturbing new research about the climate effects of low-yield, regional nuclear war.

Using South Asia as an example, these experts have found that even a limited regional nuclear war on the order of 100 Hiroshima-sized nuclear weapons would result in tens of millions of immediate deaths and unprecedented global climate disruption. Smoke from urban firestorms caused by multiple nuclear explosions would rise into the upper troposphere and, due to atmospheric heating, would subsequently be boosted deep into the stratosphere.

The resulting soot cloud would block 7–10% of warming sunlight from reaching the Earth’s surface, leading to significant cooling and reductions in precipitation lasting for more than a decade. Within 10 days following the explosions, there would be a drop in average surface temperature of 1.25° C. Over the following year, a 10% decline in average global rainfall and a large reduction in the Asian summer monsoon would have a significant impact on agricultural production. These effects would persist over many years. The growing season would be shortened by 10 to 20 days in many of the most important grain producing areas in the world, which might completely eliminate crops that had insufficient time to reach maturity.

nuc war cornThere are currently more than 800 million people in the world who are chronically malnourished. Several hundred million more live in countries that depend on imported grain. Even a modest, sudden decline in agricultural production could trigger significant increases in the prices for basic foods, as well as hoarding on a global scale, making food inaccessible to poor people in much of the world. While it is not possible to estimate the precise extent of the global famine that would follow a regional nuclear war, it seems reasonable to anticipate a total global death toll in the range of one billion from starvation alone. Famine on this scale would also lead to major epidemics of infectious diseases, and would create immense potential for mass population movement, civil conflict, and war.

These findings have significant implications for nuclear weapons policy. They are powerful evidence in the case against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and against the modernization of arsenals in the existing nuclear weapon states. Even more important, they argue for a fundamental reassessment of the role of nuclear weapons in the world. If even a relatively small nuclear war, by Cold War standards—within the capacity of eight nuclear-armed states—could trigger a global catastrophe, then the only viable response is the complete abolition of nuclear weapons.

Two other issues need to be considered as well. First, there is a very high likelihood that famine on this scale would lead to major epidemics of infectious diseases. Previous famines have been accompanied by major outbreaks of plague, typhus, malaria, dysentery, and cholera. Despite the advances in medical technology of the last half century, a global famine on the anticipated scale would provide the ideal breeding ground for epidemics involving any or all of these illness, especially in the vast megacities of the developing world.

Famine on this scale would also provoke war and civil conflict, including food riots. Competition for limited food resources might well exacerbate ethnic and regional animosities. Armed conflict among nations would escalate as states dependent on imports adopted whatever means were at their disposal to maintain access to food supplies.


C.  Regional nuclear war could devastate global climate
11 Dec 2006, EurekAlert.org,  see Joseph Blumberg at blumberg@ur.rutgers.edu
Pasted from: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-12/rtsu-rnw120706.php

[The Fat Man mushroom cloud resulting from the nuclear explosion over Nagasaki rises 18 km (11 mi, 60,000 ft) into the air from the hypocenter, August 9, 1945. (Wikipedia)]

NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Even a small-scale, regional nuclear war could produce as many direct fatalities as all of World War II and disrupt the global climate for a decade or more, with environmental effects that could be devastating for everyone on Earth, university researchers have found.

These powerful conclusions are being presented Dec. 11 during a press conference and a special technical session at the annual meeting of American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The research also appears in twin papers posted on Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions, an online journal.

A team of scientists at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder); and UCLA conducted the rigorous scientific studies reported.

Against the backdrop of growing tensions in the Middle East and nuclear “saber rattling” elsewhere in Asia, the authors point out that even the smallest nuclear powers today and in the near future may have as many as 50 or more Hiroshima-size (15 kiloton) weapons in their arsenals; all told, about 40 countries possess enough plutonium and/or uranium to construct substantial nuclear arsenals.

Owen “Brian” Toon, chair of the department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and a member of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at CU-Boulder, oversaw the analysis of potential fatalities based on an assessment of current nuclear weapons inventories and population densities in large urban complexes. His team focused on scenarios of smoke emissions that urban firestorms could produce.

“The results described in one of the new papers represent the first comprehensive quantitative study of the consequences of a nuclear conflict between smaller nuclear states,” said Toon and his co-authors. “A small country is likely to direct its weapons against population centers to maximize damage and achieve the greatest advantage,” Toon said. Fatality estimates for a plausible regional conflict ranged from 2.6 million to 16.7 million per country.

Alan Robock, a professor in the department of environmental sciences and associate director of the Center for Environmental Prediction at Rutgers’ Cook College, guided the climate modeling effort using tools he previously employed in assessing volcano-induced climate change. Robock and his Rutgers co-workers, Professor Georgiy Stenchikov and Postdoctoral Associate Luke Oman (now at Johns Hopkins University) generated a series of computer simulations depicting potential climatic anomalies that a small-scale nuclear war could bring about, summarizing their conclusions in the second paper.

“Considering the relatively small number and size of the weapons, the effects are surprisingly large. The potential devastation would be catastrophic and long term,” said Richard Turco, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences, and a member and founding director of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment. Turco once headed a team including Toon and Carl Sagan that originally defined “nuclear winter.”

nuc war cloudWhile a regional nuclear confrontation among emerging third-world nuclear powers might be geographically constrained, Robock and his colleagues have concluded that the environmental impacts could be worldwide.

“We examined the climatic effects of the smoke produced in a regional conflict in the subtropics between two opposing nations, each using 50 Hiroshima-size nuclear weapons to attack the other’s most populated urban areas,” Robock said. The researchers carried out their simulations using a modern climate model coupled with estimates of smoke emissions provided by Toon and his colleagues, which amounted to as much as five million metric tons of “soot” particles.

“A cooling of several degrees would occur over large areas of North America and Eurasia, including most of the grain-growing regions,” Robock said. “As in the case with earlier nuclear winter calculations, large climatic effects would occur in regions far removed from the target areas or the countries involved in the conflict.”

When Robock and his team applied their climate model to calibrate the recorded response to the 1912 eruptions of Katmai volcano in Alaska, they found that observed temperature anomalies were accurately reproduced. On a grander scale, the 1815 eruption of Tambora in Indonesia – the largest in the last 500 years – was followed by killing frosts throughout New England in 1816, during what has become known as “the year without a summer.” The weather in Europe was reported to be so cold and wet that the harvest failed and people starved. This historical event, according to Robock, perhaps foreshadows the kind of climate disruptions that would follow a regional nuclear conflict.

But the climatic disruption resulting from Tambora lasted for only about one year, the authors note. In their most recent computer simulation, in which carbon particles remain in the stratosphere for up to 10 years, the climatic effects are greater and last longer than those associated with the Tambora eruption.

“With the exchange of 100 15-kiloton weapons as posed in this scenario, the estimated quantities of smoke generated could lead to global climate anomalies exceeding any changes experienced in recorded history,” Robock said. “And that’s just 0.03 percent of the total explosive power of the current world nuclear arsenal.”

[Below, I’ve provided some visual examples of the sort of things you might want to incorporate into your cupboard, pantry, basement and/or under your bed during early 2014, think of it as insurance. Mr. Larry]

nuc war food stores

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Experiences in living without electricity

(Survival Manual/5. Energy/ Experiences in living without electricity)

Tempers flare over 6 days of Connecticut power outages
4 Nov 2011,  Associated Press, By Michael Melia

Hartford, Conn. (AP) — Tempers are snapping as fast as the snow-laden branches that brought down power wires across the Northeast last weekend, with close to 300,000 Connecticut customers still in the dark and the state’s biggest utility warning them not to threaten or harass repair crews.
Angry residents left without heat as temperatures drop to near freezing overnight have been lashing out at Connecticut Light & Power: accosting repair crews, making profane criticisms online and suing. In Simsbury, a hard-hit suburban town of about 25,000 residents, National Guard troops deployed to clear debris have been providing security outside a utility office building.
At a shelter at Simsbury High School, resident Stacy Niezabitowski, 53, said Friday she would love to yell at someone from Connecticut Light & Power but hadn’t seen any of its workers.

“Everybody is looking for someplace to vent – not a scapegoat, just someplace to vent your anger so somebody will listen and do something,” said Niezabitowski, who was having lunch at the shelter with her 21-year-old daughter. “Nobody is doing anything.”
The October nor’easter knocked out power to more than 3 million homes and business across the Northeast, including 830,000 in Connecticut, where outages now exceed those of all other states combined. Connecticut Light & Power has blamed the extent of the devastation partly on overgrown trees in the state, where it says some homeowners and municipalities have resisted the pruning of limbs for reasons including aesthetics.

The company called the snowstorm and resulting power outages “a historic event” and said it was focused on getting almost all power back on by Sunday night. [Note what should already be obvious, ‘historic events’ happen, that’s why you should be prepared. Mr Larry]
For some residents still dealing with outages, no excuse is acceptable.

In Avon, a Farmington Valley town where 85 percent of customers were still without power on Friday, town manager Brandon Robertson said he faulted CL&P for an “absolutely unacceptable and completely avoidable” situation. He said the high school that is being used as an emergency shelter was still running on a generator. Although public works crews had cleared most of the town roads, he said, more than 25 still were blocked as they waited for CL&P crews to clear power lines.

“Our residents are angry. We’re angry,” he said. “It’s just really shocking.”
The person who has taken the brunt of the public scorn is CL&P’s president and chief operating officer, Jeffrey D. Butler. He has been appearing with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at daily news briefings, but he was left to face a grilling by the media on his own Thursday night when the governor left the room after criticizing the slow pace of power restoration.

Butler said he was sorry so many residents have been left without power for so long during the chilly nights. He said Friday that his own house in the Farmington Valley has been without power since a generator failed, and he urged customers to remember the extent of the damage. [Basically, if it’s much more than the average storm, the public may have to fend for themselves. Mr Larry]
“People need to keep in perspective the magnitude of damage,” he said.

The outages have driven thousands of people into shelters in New England and have led to several deaths, including eight in Connecticut.
In North Brookfield, Mass., an 86-year-old woman was found dead Thursday in her unheated home, and her 59-year-old son was taken to a hospital with symptoms of hypothermia, subnormal body temperature. The local fire chief said it was unfortunate they had not reached out to authorities or neighbors for help.

In New Jersey, authorities said fumes from a gasoline-powered generator are believed to have caused the deaths of an elderly couple discovered hours before electricity was restored to their home in rural Milford, near Pennsylvania, on Thursday evening.
For many without power, the past week has been a blur of moving between friends’ homes or hotel rooms with occasional visits to their own houses to feed pets and check, in vain, for electricity.

Glastonbury resident Alison Takahashi, 17, said she has bunked with friends and, for a few nights, with her parents in a hotel 45 minutes away, the only opening they could find after the storm. She said her brother, a high school freshman, also has moved like a nomad between friends’ homes all week, heading to the next when he worried he’d started wearing out his welcome.

“The cellphones are our life lines right now,” said Takahashi, a Glastonbury High School senior. “It’s the only way to know where everybody is, and if you forget your charger and your phone is dead, you can’t reach anybody.”
Some Connecticut residents have vented their frustration through dark humor on the Internet, turning to social media websites to ridicule the utility – often with profanity. One person tweeted: “Really (pound)CL&P? A hamster on a wheel would be a better power source.”

A few particularly irate power customers have taken their anger out on utility crews.
CL&P spokeswoman Janine Saunders said some hostile customers have approached the crews, but she declined to provide details. A police officer posted outside the utility’s office building in Simsbury along with a National Guard soldier said line crews had been threatened and they wanted to make sure people could complain without letting things get out of hand.

The utility urged the public via Twitter not to harass or threaten the line workers.
Saunders said the utility understands what people are going through and has stressed to customer service employees that they need to be empathetic.
“If people want to vent, call us, see us on Facebook,” she said. “We’re doing our best to try to respond to people and answer questions in those medium. But let the folks out in the field do their job.”

In Massachusetts, where tens of thousands of customers were still without power, the National Grid said in a statement that there have been “only a couple isolated incidents” and that most customers have been thanking crews for their work: “They are demonstrating their appreciation by bringing crews coffee and food.”

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick asked state utility regulators on Friday to conduct a formal investigation into how the state’s major power companies prepared for and responded to the outages.
In Connecticut, CL&P has promised to restore power to 99 percent of its 1.2 million customers by Sunday night. Butler, the president, said more than 1,740 crews were working and the utility was prioritizing schools and polling sites for elections on Tuesday. [Prioritize schools and polling sites ahead of homes?]

Simsbury resident Chris Gauthier, 47, said he was frustrated the power lines weren’t maintained better before the storm, but he said he was too busy to worry about who to blame. Every day, he wakes up before the rest of his family to start a fire in his den’s fireplace. He and neighbors were clearing a dozen fallen trees around his house with hand saws Friday as National Guard troops removed debris from the street.
“I have better things to do than dwelling on who’s to blame and stuff like that,” he said. “There are trees to clear and these guys (his three children) to feed and keep warm.”

First Selectman Mary Glassman, of Simsbury, said many homes are still not reachable by car because of downed trees and power cables, and officials are concerned for the residents’ safety as people in cold houses resort to driving across power lines to seek shelter elsewhere.
“We’re concerned people are getting to their wits’ end,” she said.

Some business owners already were planning to pursue compensation from CL&P for their losses.
In Canton, Asylum Hair Salon owner Scott Simmons filed a negligence lawsuit against the utility to make up for $1,000 in lost business from Saturday to Wednesday. He said other businesses owners who still don’t have power are taking a much bigger hit.
“I just think it was completely mishandled,” Simmons said of CL&P’s response to the outages.
A CL&P spokeswoman declined to comment on Simmons’ claims.

B.  Life Without Electricity in a Semi-Tropical Climate
May 13, 2011 , Lynn M.

We are preppers. I love reading the prep/survival books. There’s so much information out there and so many people involved in prepping now, there’s just no reason to not do it! We learned from experience that you can never be over prepared. Since 2004 I’ve learned how to store food for the long-term, how to filter water (okay, I’ll give credit to my Berkey on that one), I’ve learned about bug out bags and how to build a fire with a flint, but what I learned the most from was living for more than two weeks without electricity after hurricanes Frances, Jeanne and Wilma. Even though we were only thinking hurricane preparedness then, we were still leaps and bounds beyond most of our neighbors.

The obvious things that one can’t miss are non perishable food and water. You’d be surprised how many people wait until a hurricane warning to stock up on these basics. Once a hurricane is within 3 days of hitting, the stores get crazy and empty out. Shopping during that time is no longer an option for us, we’re prepared far in advance. The only food I can see getting right before a storm is bread (although we stock up and freeze bread when it’s on sale) and fresh fruits and veggies. When a warning is issued water is the first to go, then canned soups, tuna, Spam, etc. Let me tell you folks, eating soup when its 98 degrees with 98 percent humidity is not appetizing. We have to think about what we’d normally eat and work with that. I stock up on canned meats and fruits and veggies. We have an extra freezer stocked with meat. Unfortunately, during Hurricane Frances the storm lingered for 3 days over our area. We could not run the generator during the storm. The power went out immediately and all of our meat was lost by the time the storm passed. So stocking up the fridge and freezer’s a great idea but in the end you could lose it all. We regularly eat tortillas of all kinds, so I have a stock of masa and a tortilla press. Tortillas can be cooked on a skillet over a grill in no time at all. Speaking of the grill, we have at least four ways of cooking outside and only two of those require gas. We have many propane tanks (I’m not even going to tell you how many, it’s almost embarrassing!). But we also have a charcoal grill and a fire pit, with wood stocked up for fuel if needed. The wood needs to be covered or brought in during a storm so it doesn’t get soaked or blown away.

So food and water, obvious, but how to live without electricity? Well folks, that’s where the rubber meets the road. The everyday little things soon become a chore. Take brushing your teeth for instance. When no water comes out of the faucet it’s a little more complicated. Not only is there no running water, but because we are on city sewer (and remember, no electricity) only minimal waste can go down the drain. Basically because whatever you put down the drain could potentially come back into the home once the power goes back on. This happened to several neighbors, but not us. The water that we store is not just for drinking. After a storm we take a 5 gallon bucket and fill it, halfway or so, cover it and put it on the back porch. This is where we get water to brush our teeth and wash ourselves. All the dirty water is poured into a corner of the yard.

We did allow for toileting inside but only flushing when necessary. Again water is needed for flushing and you can see our supply dwindling as I type. Washing not only ourselves but dishes also needed to be done outside. We set up a table and again a 5 gallon bucket of water for our outdoor wash area. We used a lot of paper and plastic but some things still needed to be cleaned (pans, pots, etc). Whenever possible I used just cold water, soap and bleach, but with very grimy stuff we’d boil water on the grill and wash dishes in that. I added bleach to every wash load just to keep the germs minimal. That’s just breakfast folks. Now, I’m going to admit, after a few days my husband hooked the generator up to the water pump and we were able to bathe and have water from the outside faucet but it’s very hard water, normally used for irrigation only. It’s not potable but can be used for bathing and washing. Again, it had to be done outside which was fine because we actually have an outside shower. Only cold water though. We were able to have a little warm water by hooking up a hose to the faucet and laying it on the roof. The heat from the sun warmed what was in the hose. It was good for a quick shower and I do mean quick.

A normal day was extremely hot and humid, we were inundated with biting flies and mosquitoes and we were typically dirty and very tired. Having decent screens on the windows was crucial as they were open all of the time. Bug spray helped but it made us feel dirty and grimy. I was not up on hand washing clothes at that time and the laundry pile was a nightmare. If I have to go through it again I would do things differently. I’d have two 5-gallon buckets, one for washing, one for rinsing and a hand washer. They look something like a plunger and are sufficient for hand washing shorts, underwear and tank tops. I’d also re-wear whatever possible so not to create so many dirty clothes. Now you may be wondering why we didn’t just hook up the generator to help take the edge off of the misery. We actually had the generator hooked up most of the time. It ran the fridge/freezer and a window air conditioner at night. Generators are great but they’re expensive to run and it’s important to be of the mindset that you may be entirely without electricity. Even the gas stations took several weeks to get up and running.

Being that the inside of the house was miserable, we spent a lot of time on our porch. It’s actually more of a deck, with privacy fencing surrounding us but no roof. My genius husband rigged a shade screen from material we had stored. That worked for giving us a shady area in which to clean and eat but it didn’t help with the bugs. I now have two mosquito nets stored away. If we have to do this again my husband can surely hang those to give us a protected area.

In the end we made it. My neighbors made fun of me when I washed our dishes outside but when the power came back on sewage didn’t back up into our house. We both missed a lot of work but managed to feed our family of four (my husband, myself, young teen daughter and a handicapped adult) and keep us clean and entertained. We played games at night before it got too dark. Bedtime came early. I put cute bandanas in our hair to keep it back and my daughter loved that. We put stickers on ourselves so as we tanned up (in the sun much more than usual) we had silly designs all over. We had a stash of special snack foods and kept our spirits up by joking around and not taking everything so seriously. When the power came back on after the first storm we had been over two weeks living primitively. I have to admit, I cried.

C.  How do you live without electricity
Issue 73 Jan/Feb 2002, By Anita Evangelista
It’s going to happen. Sooner or later, the power will go off, and you won’t know when (or if) it will come back on. This doesn’t have to be the work of evil-doers, either. It could be a sudden ice storm that brings down the power lines. It could result from other severe weather such as a tornado or hurricane, or from a disruption caused by faulty power company equipment, or even something as simple as a tree branch falling on your own personal segment of the grid. The effect is the same: everything electrical in your home stops working.

For most modern Americans, the loss of power means the complete loss of normalcy. Their lifestyle is so dependent upon the grid’s constancy that they do not know how to function without it. How do you cook a meal if your gas stove has an electric ignition? How do your children find their way to the bathroom at night if the light switches don’t work? How do you keep warm if your wood heat is moved through ducts by an electric fan? What do you do with a freezer full of expensive meat? How do you find out what is happening in your area with the TV and radio silent? What will you drink if your water comes from a system dependent on electrical pumps?

These are questions that both the Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency are asking people to seriously consider. Both of these agencies have suggested that preparations for three days without power are prudent commonsense actions that all Americans should now undertake.

We’ll look at these issues in the broad context of living without access to the grid, whether you’ve chosen to separate from it or whether the choice is made for you by outside forces. What you can do now to mitigate your difficulties if the power goes off in the future, and what you can do then to help keep your situation under control, will be the focus of this article.

Remember, too, that an important principle in all preparations is that you maintain as much “normalcy” in your lifestyle as possible. For example, if television is part of your relaxation and unwinding process, don’t assume you can easily do without it. The closer you can keep your daily routines to “the norm” for your family, the more easily you can deal with power outages.

There are five primary areas that are easily disrupted if the power goes off. Each of these is critical to daily survival, as well, so when making preparations for emergencies keep these in mind. In order of importance, they are: light, water, cooking, heating/cooling, and communication.

Light:  While living on our Ozark farm without the grid, we spent some time rising with the sun and going to bed when the sun set. This would probably have been a pretty healthy way to live, if everyone else in the world did the same thing. Our children’s bathroom needs didn’t stop when the sun went down, our neighbors figured that nighttime visits weren’t out of the ordinary, and those midnight raids on the pantry for crackers and peanut butter turned into fumble-fests. Sometimes the barking of our livestock guardian dogs meant strange predators were too close for comfort, somewhere in the countryside darkness. Light is the most important item on our Big Five list because without light we are not able to efficiently carry on the other activities of daily living.

The most simple and familiar form of emergency lighting is a flashlight. Do you have one that you could find in the dark, right now? If so, congratulations. You are among a very small percentage of Americans. Better yet if you have one for each member of your family, with fresh batteries, plus three extra sets of batteries for each flashlight. That should be your minimum “safe” number. Store your flashlight where you can quickly reach it in the dark night—under the mattress of your bed, for example. Each child old enough to walk should also have his or her own flashlight, and be taught how to use it.

Flashlights range in price from the 79 cent cheapie to the fancy multi-function $80 special. Consider a small 2-AA battery flashlight with a halogen bulb. These cost about $4-5 each, give an excellent clear white light, and are easily portable in a pocket or purse. Additionally, when we discuss communications later in the article, the most common battery used in these devices is also the AA, so your life will be simplified if you stick primarily to one type of battery and don’t have to buy various odd sizes for different needs.

Batteries wear out rapidly if your flashlights are used continuously: figure two changes per week of regular use. Alkaline batteries last longer, give a more powerful light, but cost more than regular batteries. Most rechargeable batteries are suitable for flashlights, but should be recharged when the light begins to dim a little. Don’t let them get completely drained. This means you would need several sets of rechargables for each flashlight (some would be recharging while you use the others).

Recharging can be done by means of a charger plugged into your car’s cigarette lighter outlet. These DC-powered rechargers can be found at auto supply stores and at Radio Shack for about $30 or less. Solar rechargers work slower but produce the same results for about $30.

Candles are available, slightly used, at garage sales and thrift stores (5 cents to 10 cents each or less), and some outlet stores like Big Lots have new candles for 25 cents. We have a cardboard box weighing 35 pounds that is filled with various sizes and shapes of candles. This would be about a year’s supply for my family. We’ve acquired them gradually, every time we found them inexpensively. They never go bad! Candles are easy to use and familiar. Most of us can adjust to using candles easily. The light is soft and wavering. You’ll need at least three candles if you hope to read by the light. If you have small children or indoor pets, care must be taken where you place them. Metal candle holders that hang on walls are probably the safest. Remember to place a heat proof plate underneath the holder to catch drippings. Save your wax drippings, too, to make more candles later.

Oil (kerosene) lamps produce a steadier light than candles. Department store oil lamps cost about $10 each and come in attractive styles. Lamp oil is about $3 per liter. A typical lamp will burn one to two cups of oil per night, so you would use about two liters each week per lamp. The light from these lamps is not quite adequate to read by unless it is placed very close, and the light does waver a little. A single lamp can provide enough light in a room so that you don’t bump into furniture, but two or three may be needed to provide good functional light. As with candles, if you have children, these lamps need to be placed securely and out of reach. The smell of burning oil (kerosene) can get heavy in a closed room so keep ventilation open. Keep an extra set of wicks ($2) and chimneys ($3) in case of breakage.

The Cadillac of oil lamps is the Aladdin Lamp. These run from $60 up to several hundred each. The light given off is as good as a 60-watt bulb, clear, and unwavering. You can read or do needlepoint by the light of one lamp. These burn the same oil or kerosene as typical lamps, but because they burn hotter, there is much less odor. Position these lamps so that they cannot accidentally be overturned, and so that the intense heat coming from the chimney won’t ignite something. Purchase an additional “mantle” (the light-giving portion of the lamp – $3), and chimney ($15), as backups.

Solar powered lamps ($80-$120) are typically small fluorescents, and can be run off of battery systems. It may take more than one day of bright sunlight to recharge these lamps, so you may need several—one to use, while others are recharging. The light is white and clear, good for area-lighting, and rather difficult to read by. Have extra fluorescent bulbs on hand, too.

Water: If you live in a town or city, the loss of power to homes and businesses probably will not immediately affect your water pressure, but it could affect the purification process or allow reverse seepage of contaminants into the lines. If, instead, your water comes from an electrically-powered home water pump, your water stops flowing the moment the power does. Either way, with the loss of power comes the loss of water (or, at least, clean water). Water that is free of bacteria and contaminants is so crucial to our survival that it should be a special concern in your preparations.

The easiest way to guarantee quality water is to store it right now. The important question is: how much? Both Red Cross and FEMA suggest a minimum of one gallon per day per person. This is an absolute minimum, and covers only your real drinking and cooking needs; bathing is out of the question.

The typical American currently uses around 70 gallons a day, taking a nice long hot shower, flushing the toilet several times, washing a load of laundry, letting the water run while brushing teeth, and for cooking and drinking. In a short-term emergency situation, only drinking and cooking water is crucial, but if that short-term incident drags out to weeks or months, daily consumption would rise to include bathing and clothes washing. And this presumes that the family has prepared a sanitary “outhouse,” so flushing isn’t needed. In that case, 5-10 gallons per day per person would be a more reasonable amount, with a weekly communal bath becoming the routine.

One to three-gallon jugs, direct from the supermarket, run about 60 cents to $2; these store easily under cabinets and counters. A few tucked into the freezer will help keep things cold if the power goes off. You can also store water inexpensively in large, covered plastic trash cans; they hold 36 to 55 gallons each. Refresh the water every two weeks, so it will be ready in case the power goes off. Kiddie swimming pools—a 12-foot wide, 36-inch deep pool holds 2500 gallons and costs about $250—also make excellent above-ground holding tanks. Buy a pool cover, as well, to keep bugs out.

Farm supply stores often sell “water tanks” made of heavy grade plastic. These can be partially buried underground to keep water cooler and less susceptible to mold and bacteria. These run about $1 per gallon of holding capacity, so a 350-gallon tank new will cost $350. Plan to filter and purify the water before use.

Collecting water can be done by hand with 5-gallon plastic buckets if you live near a river or stream (it must be filtered and purified before use). You can also divert rainwater off your roof, through the rain gutters and downspouts into plastic trash cans. If you live in the Midwest, Northwest, or East Coast, rainfall is adequate to make this your primary backup water source. West Coast, high desert, and mountain areas, though, won’t have sufficient rainfall to make this a reliable source.

A drilled well with an electric pump can be retrofitted with a plastic hand-pump for about $400 – $600. These systems sit side-by-side with your electric pump down the same well-shaft, and can be put to use any time the power is off. Typical delivery is about 2 gallons per minute, and pumping strength varies from 11 to 20 pounds—a good but not exhausting workout.

Water can be purified inexpensively. Fifteen drops of bleach (plain unscented) per gallon of water costs less than 1 penny, and ¼ cup of hydrogen peroxide (3%) per gallon will also destroy bacteria. Twenty minutes of a hard, rolling boil will, too. Bleach is effective against both cholera and typhoid and has kept American water supplies safe for decades. The chlorine taste can be easily removed with a charcoal filter system (such as Brita Pitcher or Pur brands for home use, about $30).

British Berkefeld water filters, along with various other brands, are more expensive ($150-$250), but can filter and purify water indefinitely. Both eliminate bacteria, contaminants, and off-flavors. We’ve used a “Big Berkey” for four or five years, and it is a very reliable gravity-fed system. When shopping for filters, if they only offer “better taste” they won’t protect you from bacterial contaminants.

Noah Water System’s travel companion will work great in case of a power outage, or your water supply becomes undrinkable. The Trekker is a portable water purification unit. With the Trekker you can get water from any river, lake, or pond. It’s small enough to carry like a briefcase.

Cooking:  A person can survive indefinitely opening cold cans of beans for meals, but it wouldn’t be a very satisfying existence. In times of crisis, a hot meal goes a long way toward soothing the day’s troubles. The simplest way to heat a meal is the Boy Scout method: a couple of bricks or rocks set around a small outdoor fire, with the bean can propped over the flames. It’s low cost, and it works. However, the cook doesn’t have much control over the outcome.

Outdoor cooking of all kinds, including grilling and barbecuing, all work during emergency situations, provided you have the charcoal or wood (and matches!) needed to get the heat going. These are familiar methods, too, so family members don’t have to make a huge leap to accept these foods. It’s difficult to cook much more than meats and a few firm vegetables over open heat like this, though. Also, never use these devices in a confined space, as they emit carbon monoxide.

Campfire” cooking can lend itself to some baking, if you also have a cast iron Dutch Oven—a large, heavy, cast iron covered pot. Place a well-kneaded pound of bread dough into a heavily-greased or oiled Dutch Oven and put the cover in position. Make a hole or pot-sized well in the ash near the fire, and line this with glowing coals. Put about an inch of ash over the coals, and place the Dutch Oven into this. Now, pile about an inch of hot ash around the oven and cover with glowing coals, then another layer of ash to keep the heat in. Uncover and check your bread in about 35 minutes, it should be done.

Propane and butane camp stoves are so much like ordinary home stoves that there is no difference in the cooking results. Portable RV 2-burner propane stoves are often available used—mine cost $5 at a garage sale—and can even do pressure canning because the heat is consistent and reliable. A typical 20 pound propane cylinder, the kind used for barbeques, costs around $50 new, and a propane fillup is about $12. This will last for nearly a month of daily use. You’ll also need a feeder hose and pressure regulator for the stove, which can be prepared by your propane dealer for $20 or so.

Butane stoves are also portable and run off of a cylinder of the same kind of butane that is used in cigarette lighters. These stoves are $80-90 new, and cylinders are $5 and last for 8 hours of cooking.

General camp stoves (around $65 at department stores) operate on “stove fuel” (basically, propane in a small 1-pound cylinder – $3). A cylinder lasts for around 8 hours of cooking. You can also find camp stoves that will cook off of unleaded gasoline, and there are some that are “multi-fuel,” using either kerosene or gasoline—handy in case of a shortage of one fuel or the other. Use outdoors or on a covered porch to prevent carbon monoxide buildup in your home.

Solar cooking is another option, if you have plenty of unobstructed sunlight and someone who is willing to adjust the cooker to face the sun every half hour or so. A solar oven need be no more fancy than a set of nested cardboard boxes painted flat black on the inside with tempura colors, a sheet of window glass, and some aluminum foil glued to cardboard panels. Total cost for this, if you can scrounge leftover glass and cardboard, is about $1.

A solar oven design made with cardboard boxes, aluminum foil, and a piece of window glass. Interior of the box is flat black paint.

Place your food in a covered lightweight pan inside the box, prop it so the entire interior is exposed to the sunlight (about a 45-degree angle), cover with the sheet of glass (and tape the glass so it won’t slide), then prop the aluminum foil panels so that they reflect more sunlight down into the box. Move the box every 30 minutes so it maintains an even temperature. It will get hot fast, easily up to 325 degrees, and hold the heat as long as it faces the sun. Remember to use potholders when removing your foods! Our first solar oven had a black plastic trash bag as a heat-absorbing inner surface; it worked superbly until the plastic actually melted.
[I bought a Global Sun Oven with Thermometer for about $250. It’s a very efficient oven, cooking chicken and loaves of bread in the same amount of time as the kitchen stove’s oven. Google ‘Global Sun Oven’ or bring it up in Amazon.com; the manufacturer has a video showing its use. Mr Larry]

Keeping foods cool if the power goes out can be as simple as looking for shade, even under a tree. Some Ozarkers have partially buried old broken freezers in the shade of backyard trees, storing grains and winter vegetables inside. During the winter, your parked car will stay at the same temperature as the outside air—below freezing on those cold nights—so you can store frozen goods there safely. During the daylight hours, the car interior will heat up, though, if it’s in the sun. Park it in the shade of the house, or cover the windows and roof with a blanket to keep the interior cool.

Kerosene refrigerator/freezers are alternative appliances that will continue to function with the power off because they are “powered” by kerosene. Their cooling and freezing capacity is exactly the same as a regular refrigerator, and they come in the same colors. Typically, they are a little smaller than conventional ‘fridges and cost up to $1500, but they’ll last for decades with care.

Portable battery-powered refrigerators that keep your foods 40-degrees cooler than outside temperatures are available at most department store sporting-goods sections ($90). These run off of both DC and AC power, so they can be plugged into your car battery through the cigarette lighter outlet or into a solar power system.

What about that freezer full of expensive meat if the power goes off? First step is to cover the freezer with blankets to help retain the cold. Then, find dry ice (if everyone else in your town hasn’t already bought out the supply). Blanket coverings will keep a full freezer frozen for two days, and the addition of dry ice will prolong that to three or four days.

If power stays off, it’s time to eat and time to can the meat remaining. Canning low-acid foods like meat calls for a pressure canner ($90), canning jars ($6 for 12), a source of consistent heat (like a propane RV stove), and some skill. In considering your time requirements, it took me two days of steady canning to put a 230-pound pig into jars. Each quart jar holds 3 pounds of meat.

Heating and cooling: It’s a funny thing that even though we know winter is coming, we put off cutting our wood until after the first really cold night has chilled the house below comfort levels. But with the instability in the world today, it is sensible, and reasonable, to prepare well in advance of season changes. Putting in supplies a year ahead of time is a traditional farm practice, and it gives a cushion of safety against uncertain conditions.

Woodstove heating is more common, and comfortable to use, than it was two decades ago. New wood heaters run from $100 to several thousands, depending on materials, craftsmanship, and beauty. Better stoves hold heat longer and may have interior baffles that let you use less wood to produce more heat. Even so, the most basic metal-drum-turned-stove also works to heat a room or a house.

Heating a 3-bedroom home that is moderately insulated will use about 8-12 cords of wood throughout the winter. The size of a cord  is  about 8′ x 8′ x 2′, roughly a pickup truck bed loaded even with the top of the sides. Prices will vary between $65 per cord to $150, depending on the region and type of wood. Hardwoods, such as oak and walnut, and fruitwoods like apple and pear, burn better and longer than softwoods like poplar. Don’t use resinous woods, such as the pines, cedars, and spruces for the main heating—only as firestarters—because they burn too hot and fast and generate creosote. Better home insulation and better quality hardwoods will decrease the amount of wood you need to use.

If you plan to secure and cut your own firewood, be willing to acquire a good-quality chainsaw—any that cost below $200 will only give you grief. Keep an extra chain on hand. Use safety precautions, too: wear ear and eye protectors, heavy gloves, and don’t chainsaw alone. Cutting your own wood will decrease your heating costs significantly, but increase your labor. It typically takes us a full week of constant work to put up a winter’s worth of wood.

Woodstoves require heat-proof surfaces surrounding them, an insulated chimney pipe (about $90 per 3-foot section), and some building skills in order to install. Installation costs can equal or surpass the cost of the stove itself. Chimneys need to be thoroughly cleaned of the black crusty buildup, creosote, at least twice each year (and more often if you use the stove continuously).

Propane heaters that don’t need venting to outdoors are a relatively new product. A plain one ($200) can be mounted on the wall in the home’s main room, or more fancy models that look like built-in fireplaces complete with fake logs ($450) are available. You will need a propane tank, regulator, and appropriate copper lines, but these will all be installed by your propane company for a small charge. Propane has varied widely in cost from year to year, but typically runs around $0.95 to $1.30 per gallon.

Kerosene heaters ($120) are freestanding units that burn kerosene in a way that is something like a lamp—it uses a wick system and flames to provide heat. These are best used in areas that can be easily ventilated, because of the potential for buildup of carbon monoxide. Kerosene has a strong odor, as well. Kerosene costs about $1 per gallon or less (in quantity).

Solar heat can be “grabbed” anytime the light from the sun hits your house. Even in the dead of winter, the south-facing walls will feel noticeably warmer than the shaded north-facing ones. You can “store” the sun’s heat in any surface. Ceramic floor tiles, for instance, are excellent at retaining heat. So will a flat-black painted covered plastic trash can filled with water. If these surfaces are exposed to sunlight, say, indoors next to a south-facing window, they will absorb heat during the day. At night, with the window curtains closed, the surface will release heat slowly and steadily into the house.

One of the most efficient ways to heat is something else we have forgotten in the past 50 years—close off rooms that are not being used. If doors aren’t available, you can hang curtains in doorways (or even tack up a blanket, in a pinch), and keep your heat restricted to the room you are actually in. In an emergency situation, you can curtain up a room and set up a tent-like “den” for the family to snuggle in under blankets. Body heat alone will keep the den’s interior comfortable.

A “shepherd” or “camp” stove offered by Cabela’s catalog. It has a detachable shelf on the right, detachable five-gallon hot water tank on the left, and an oven sitting above the stove body. The whole thing breaks down and is portable. It cooks very nicely, too. Costs about $500 for all components, excluding stove pipes, and it can be bought piecemeal. The light in the upper left-hand photo is a lit oil lamp, placed to give light when using the stove.

Cooling a residence during a hot summer requires just as much thought and advance planning as winter heating does. Battery and solar-powered fans help keep air moving, windows can be shaded by fast-growing vines and pole beans, and—planning way ahead—fast-growing trees like poplars can be planted on the house’s south side to shade the yard.

In areas where wind blows routinely in the summer, you can soak a sheet, ring it out, and hang it in front of a breezy window. The air passing through the window is cooled as it moves against the wet sheet, and helps to cool the house. Remember that heat rises, so make it easy for too-hot air to escape from the attic and upper floors by opening windows and vents.

Communications: In a time of distress, keeping in contact with family and knowing about local and national situations is important to maintaining both continuity and confidence. In general, telephone systems are on a different system than the electrical power grid, but they can be disrupted if there are earth movements or as the result of terrorist activities.

During the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, we kept informed about the damages by watching a 4-inch black and white TV set (bought used for $25) that was plugged into our car battery through the cigarette lighter. At night, we heard reports from the BBC via a 4-AA battery-powered shortwave radio ($70 from Radio Shack). I consider these two devices—shortwave and TV—the required minimum communication/ information devices during a crisis, especially if the phone system is down.

Satellite internet hookups, using a battery-powered laptop, could be an excellent communication tool, both for accessing news and for staying in touch with friends and colleagues by email.

Citizens Band (CB) radios are excellent tools, as well. These portable devices can be carried with you into the field and used to stay in contact with neighbors and family when you are away from the house. Basic models run $60—you’ll need at least two—and ones with greater ranges and features are more costly. They’ll run on 6 to 8 (or more) AA batteries.

“Family Radios” are FM-band devices that have a short-range, about ¼ mile ($60 for a pair). These are handy for keeping family in contact during outings, when traveling in a caravan, or when one member needs to go out to the barn during a storm. They run on 2 AA batteries.

Keeping things normal: Even though circumstances may change in the world, we can choose how we wish to react. We can live in a state of helpless anxiety—or control what we can. We can control our responses, in part, by maintaining as much normalcy in our lives as possible.

If your family relaxes in the evenings with a video, plan to continue doing that. Acquire a battery-powered TV/VCR combination, and make sure you have enough power sources to keep that going for at least two weeks. (If things get dicey, you can wean off the system in two weeks.) A cassette player or CD player with external speakers can provide relaxation and entertainment, and they run off of AA batteries as well.

Children have difficulty adjusting to sudden changes in their environment, so if you expect them to play board games if the power goes out, they should be comfortable with board games now. Keep routines consistent, arising at the usual time in the morning and going to bed as you have in the past. Prepare familiar meals with foods everyone enjoys. Have “fun foods” and goodies on hand. Remember to reach out to your neighbors and older folks who live nearby, and provide extras to help them, as well.
Use the knowledge you’ve gained, and your experience with non-electric living, to make your neighborhood a more secure and adaptable place.

D.  How To Survive Without Electricity after Doomsday 2012?
22 July 2009, blog.2012pro.com , by Gerard Le Flamand

How to survive in a situation when some major crisis occurs and leave everybody without electricity for months or even years?
The electricity has only been a common household item in the last 50 or so years. Before that, people have survived for ages – so a lack of electricity for any duration of time is something that can be overcome. But for most modern Americans, the loss of power means the complete loss of normalcy. Their lifestyle is so dependent upon the grid’s constancy that they do not know how to function without it. How do you cook a meal if your gas stove has an electric ignition? How do you keep warm if your wood heat is moved through ducts by an electric fan? What do you do with a freezer full of expensive meat? How do you find out what is happening in your area with the TV and radio silent? What will you drink if your water comes from a system dependent on electrical pumps?

These are questions that both the Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency are asking people to seriously consider.

There are five primary areas that are easily disrupted if the power goes off. Each of these is critical to daily survival, as well, so when making preparations for emergencies keep these in mind. In order of importance, they are: light, water, cooking, heating/cooling, and communication.

Lighting: It wasn’t too long ago that people were active during the day and simply went to sleep when the sun went down. Candlelight dinners were the norm. So candles or oil lamps and matches are one option. Stock up on oil and have enough candles to get you through the catastrophic event. However they are limited in quantity. After doomsday in 2012 you probably will need to learn how to make candles or lamps by yourself from the natural products.

Another option is to purchase a couple of solar or mechanically powered torches. For example, solar-powered lamps. They are typically small fluorescents, and can be run off of battery systems. It may take more than one day of bright sunlight to recharge these lamps, so you may need several—one to use, while others are recharging. The light is white and clear, good for area-lighting, and rather difficult to read by. Have extra fluorescent bulbs on hand, too.

Water: If you have a rainwater tank, no electricity means that pumps would not work to bring the water to your tap. Sure, having a generator would be handy for a few days, or as long as you have fuel. The easiest way to guarantee quality water is to store it. The important question is: how much? Both Red Cross and FEMA suggest a minimum of one gallon per day per person. This is an absolute minimum, and covers only your real drinking and cooking needs; bathing is out of the question. Another question is: how to get fresh water then the storage is empty? You will need to find a source of water (it must be filtered and purified before use).

Cooking:  You could quite easily cook a meal using a little portable gas stove – either a barbecue style apparatus. But you’d obviously need gas. Outdoor cooking of all kinds, including grilling and barbecuing, all work during surviving situations, provided you have the charcoal or wood (and matches!) needed to get the heat going. Never use these devices in a confined space, as they emit carbon monoxide!

Not having electricity brings the added difficulty of food storage. The old-time refrigerator is a round hole three feet deep. Dig it in your yard (or special place in your bunker) line it with plastic and place a hard cover over it. This hole will keep food from spoiling due to its lower temperature. Most foods would have to be non-perishable, pantry items. For meats you could salt and dry them (also the life important skills after doomsday 2012 ). You could plant some fruit trees and grow your own vegetables (& herbs).

Heating and cooling: All of the heaters obviously need fuel. It can be woodstoves, propane heaters, kerosene heaters…
One of the most efficient ways to heat is something else we have forgotten in the past 50 years—close off rooms that are not being used. You can minimize the heat lost in the closed room (or bunker) so you actually wouldn’t use that much fuel on heating.

Solar heat can be “grabbed” anytime the light from the sun hits your house. Even in the dead of winter, the south-facing walls will feel noticeably warmer than the shaded north-facing ones. You can “store” the sun’s heat in any surface. Ceramic floor tiles, for instance, are excellent at retaining heat. So will a flat-black painted covered plastic trash can filled with water. If these surfaces are exposed to sunlight, say, indoors next to a south-facing window, they will absorb heat during the day. At night, with the window curtains closed, the surface will release heat slowly and steadily into the house.

Communications:  It would be very hard to maintain the communication between a large numbers of people simultaneously without electricity after doomsday of 2012. Communication relates to our phones, cell phones, televisions and the internet. Radios would be the primary source of communication, as they were before television. There are some radios that you can buy which rely on solar or mechanically generated power to operate.

(End of post)

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Filed under Survival Manual, __5. Energy

How to keep warm at home

(Survival Manual/Prepper articles/ How to keep warm at home)

A.  Ice Storm Survival Preparedness
Posted on 14 December 2012, ModernSurvivalBlog.com, Submitted by: Ken Jorgustin (MSB)
Pasted from: http://modernsurvivalblog.com/weather-preparedness/ice-storm-survival-preparedness/

warmathome ice storm
An Ice Storm is a unique weather phenomenon that immediately paralyzes a region, much more so than a major snow storm. An ice storm is so debilitating that you risk your survival and life simply by walking out your front door.

Just prior to nearly any forecast of a major storm, people rush out to the grocery stores, which quickly run out of lots of food and supplies. How does this happen? Its pretty simple really… just think about your own habit of going to the grocery store… you probably go on the same day of the week, right? Let’s say you normally go Friday, someone else goes Saturday, yet another always goes on Tuesday, etc. When a storm is forecast, people disregard their normal schedule and many of them run out to the store during the same day just before the storm. Bingo… the store shelves go empty. The lesson is to NOT have to run out – keep enough at home to begin with. Not only that, but an ice storm will completely prohibit you from running that errand as soon as the fist liquid begins to freeze into ice.

EXPECT more dumb decisions. As it is, a certain percentage of people make dumb decisions, but for some reason just prior and during a storm, there are more of them making poor choices. There will be more accidents (automobile and otherwise). People rushing around, nearly panicked. Out for themselves. It’s really quite amazing to witness. So the best advice is to stay out of their way, and better yet, stay at home!

If you are stuck at home for days with the rest of your family, it will become increasingly likely that you will all get bored or stressed out. Think ahead of time for things to do. Have books to read. Games to play. Projects to accomplish. Be extra nice so as to reduce the possible stress around everyone.

Ice will quickly bring traffic to a crawl or complete halt. Cars may become abandoned and roads completely impassible. Even though you may have a 4×4, keep TIRE CHAINS in your vehicle. A 4-wheel drive will do no good on ice, just like a 2-wheel drive vehicle. Chains however will add biting grip to your tires (even 2-wheel drive vehicles) and may be the difference to get you home. They are easy to get… just ‘size’ them according to the tire model/size that you have. Oh, and once you get them, be sure and familiarize yourself with putting them on one time in your driveway, when the weather is nice, so you know how to do it!

One major danger and risk is that the power often goes out during an ice storm. The weight of the build-up of ice on the power lines and tree branches is enormous (more than you may think). Once a critical point is reached, these lines and limbs will start crashing down. Even worse is that it will be nearly impossible for repair crews to do their job until AFTER an ice storm. This means that you may be without power for a LONG TIME.

During the winter, being without power is an entirely different deal than a summertime power outage. Even a relatively short term power outage in the winter can be deadly. Your home will likely lose its ability to heat. Pipes may freeze. You may freeze. It is crucial to consider an alternative method for keeping warm. Safe portable indoor heaters are available. Of course a wood stove is a no-brainer.

Remember this, whereas during a power outage resulting from a snow storm may allow you to drive to another location which has heat or power, during an ice storm you will NOT be able to safely travel. This makes it all the more important to have a means of keeping warm in your home during a power outage.

Plus, there are all of the other aspects that go with getting along without power…

For your vehicle, keep tire chains, tow strap, salt/sand, shovel, ice scraper, snow brush, a safe gas can, extra gloves, extra hat, blanket, 72-hour kit with food (or at least some power bars, etc.), road flares, LED flashlight, car charger for cell phone, and whatever else you think may be good to have just in case…

A few additional preparedness items for home include LED flashlights, extra batteries, solar battery charger, portable battery powered AM/FM Shortwave radio, a weather radio, a safe indoor cooking stove, enough food, some stored water in case municipal tap water pumps go dead, generator, extra fuel in safe gas cans, car charger for your cell phone, and most important of all… enough hot chocolate!

If you have large trees or limbs over or near your home or roof, be very aware of this. A falling tree can easily slice into a house and kill you. Consider trimming large limbs that may be a risk. At the very least, I would not sleep or spend much time in a room underneath such a danger zone.

Conserve the power on your cell phone. Shut it off except for when you are going to use it. Cell towers are often repaired well before the power comes back on, so bear that in mind.

If you are ‘out’ and you hear a forecast of icing, do your best to get where you are going to go, BEFORE the event. Your ears should perk up when you hear the word, ICE.
Be prepared.


B. How to Winterize Your Home
15 Dec 2012, The Ready Store,
Pasted from: http://www.thereadystore.com/diy/5657/how-to-winterize-your-home?utm_source=rne_mon_20121217&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=monday&utm_content=main

Previously, we talked about what you could do to prepare for a power outage during the winter. But how can do you winterize your home to be ready for the snow and cold weather?

Here are a few points to consider as the winter weather descends upon us. Check out these points and then add your insights below. Your tips could save people money and time as they prepare.

Reverse the fan
One thing that most people don’t think about is reversing the ceiling fan. Hot air rises and you’ll want to make sure that the warm air that is collecting around your ceiling is being pushed back down into the room to heat everyone.

Clean the gutters
The last thing you’ll want to do in the middle of the winter is climb up on your frozen roof on a cold ladder and take out soggy and frozen leaves from your gutters. Cleaning your gutters allows cold water to quickly get off your roof and not collect.

Besides making sure that your house is well insulated, make sure that there aren’t any large cracks or leaks in your home. Those cracks can let hot air out and drain your heating bill.

You’ll also want to make sure that the seal around your windows and doors is tight. Many people even consider putting bubble wrap or other clear plastics around their window during the winter to allow light to come in and cold air out. You can even sew your own door draft stopper.

Planting a windbreakers
This probably isn’t something that you can do quickly or easily but you should consider planting evergreen trees close to your home. This keeps a buffer of tree between your house and the cold wind outside. The evergreen trees will also force cold winds up and around your house.

Programmable gadgets
One new trend is consumers who are installing timers on their heating systems or water heaters in order to only run during certain times of the day. This allows you to only heat when you need it – saving you money!

Shut the door
Many times it’s just more efficient not to heat a room. If there is a storage room that you aren’t using – just close the vent and the door. That allows you to focus your heating on the rooms that you use on a regular basis. You’ll have to make sure that without the vents open the room doesn’t get too cold that you have a busted pipe.

Use your large appliances
When it gets cold outside, clean the house. The heat that the washer, dryer, dishwasher, oven and other appliances put off will heat your home when it’s cold. That means you’ll want to make sure that your appliances are in working order.

Make sure you have an auto emergency kit
While you’re out and about during the winter time, make sure that you have the proper equipment in your car. That means having jumper cables, food, water and other items that will be necessary if your car breaks down in a winter storm.


C.  How to Stay Warm with Less Heat
4 Dec 2012, TheOrganicPrepper.ca, by Daisy Luther
Posted from: http://www.theorganicprepper.ca/how-to-stay-warm-with-less-heat-2-12042012

warmathome cold day

I live in an older house.  It’s not too fancy, but it features things like wood heat, an independent water supply and a million dollar view with a frugal price tag.   In the Northern winter, however, I notice exactly how drafty and chilly our little house is!  The breeze off the lake also increases the nip in the air.  With an older wood stove as our only source of heat, the rooms more distant from the stove move from chilly to downright COLD.

From a prepping point of view, using less heat allows you to extend your fuel supply. If you are totally without heat, greater measures would need to be taken than the ones listed here.  For some SHTF heating ideas, this article has some fantastic and inexpensive tips.

I rent so it isn’t feasible to insulate or replace the windows and wood stove with more efficient models. So, in the interest of non-tech solutions, here are a few ways that we keep warmer without plugging in the electric space heaters.

warmathome dress warm Keep your wrists and ankles covered.  Wear shirts with sleeves long enough to keep your wrists covered and long socks that keep your ankles covered.  You lose a great deal of heat from those two areas.

Get some long-johns.  Wearing long underwear beneath your jeans or PJ’s will work like insulation to keep your body heat in.  I like the silky kind sold by discount stores like Wal-mart for indoor use, rather than the sturdier outdoor type sold by ski shops.

Wear slippers.  You want to select house shoes with a solid bottom rather than the slipper sock type.  This forms a barrier between your feet and the cold floor.  We keep a basket of inexpensive slippers in varying sizes by the door for visitors because it makes such a big difference.  Going around in your stocking feet on a cold floor is a certain way to be chilled right through.

Get up and get moving.  It goes without saying that physical activity will increase your body temperature.  If you’re cold, get up and clean something, dance with your kids, play tug-of-war with the dog, or do a chore.  I often bring in a few loads of wood to get my blood flowing and get warmed up.

Pile on the blankets. If you’re going to be sitting down, have some layered blankets available.  Our reading area has polar fleece blankets which we top with fluffy comforters for a cozy place to relax.

warmathome sleep warm

Use a hot water bottle.  If you’re just sitting around try placing a hot water bottle (carefully wrapped to avoid burns) under the blankets with you.

Use rice bags.  If you don’t have the readymade ones, you can simply place dry rice in a clean sock.  Heat this in the microwave, if you use one, for about a minute, or place in a 100 degree oven, watching carefully, for about 10 minutes.  I keep some rice bags in a large ceramic crock beside the wood stove so they are constantly warm.  You can put your feet on them or tuck them under the blankets on your lap.

warmathome warm room

Insulate using items you have.  A friend recommended lining the interior walls with bookcases or hanging decorative quilts and blankets on the walls to add an extra layer of insulation. It definitely makes a difference because it keeps heat in and cold air out. If you look at pictures of old castles you will see lovely tapestry wall-hangings – this was to help insulate the stone walls, which absorbed the cold and released it into the space.

Layer your windows.  Our house has large lovely picture windows for enjoying the view.  However, they’re single pane and it’s hard to enjoy the view if your teeth are chattering.  We took the rather drastic step of basically closing off all the windows but one in each room for the winter.  We insulated by placing draft blockers at the bottom in the window sill (I just used rolled up polar fleece – I’m not much of a sew-er.)  This was topped by a heavy blanket, taking care to overlap the wall and window edges with it.  Over that, we hung thermal curtains that remain closed.

 Get a rug.  If you have hardwood, tile or laminate flooring, an area rug is a must.  Like the blankets on the walls, this is another layer of insulation between you and the great outdoors.  We have no basement so our floor is very chilly.  A rug in the living room protects our feet from the chill.

Wear a scarf.  No, not like a big heavy wool scarf that you’d wear outdoors – just a small, lightweight one that won’t get in your way and annoy you.  This serves two purposes.  First, it covers a bit more exposed skin. Secondly, it keeps body heat from escaping out the neck of your shirt.

Burn candles.  Especially in a smaller space, a burning candle can raise the temperature a couple of degrees.

Cuddle.  Share your body heat under the blankets when you’re watching movies or reading a book.

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Life After The Collapse, Part 2 of 2

Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/Life After The Collapse, Parts 2 of 2)

J.  De-nationalization
Along come racial conflict, the disintegration of our nation-state will begin. It is not impossible to control large areas of land using primitive means. Look at China and Russia. They had their ups and downs, the enlargement than the contraction of the areas they were able to control. But over centuries they could keep large areas under one rule. The US might not be able to do so. This will mostly hinge on oil availability. And perhaps the ability to utilize the railroads. The East has the water transportation system, which might also be used for troop movement. Even with some neglect, as seen in all sectors of our infrastructure, the upkeep will be minimal. And the bulk of the population is on some waterway. But military transport is largely oil based. Whereas in World War Two we moved large troop numbers by railroad and merchant marine, it is doubtful we can duplicate this again. The support system has been neglected to a large extent. Nevertheless, if you have a railroad nearby you are hoping will help support your community come road transit breakdown, it is possible it will be nationalized and used for military use. Not guaranteed, but a possibility. Even if the military uses every possible means of transporting themselves to trouble spots, most likely their numbers will be too small. I can’t see an immediate withdrawal of overseas troops to quell local troubles. By the time they are shipped home, the civil unrest will be too large to contain. Assuming of course things get bad enough that kind of unrest takes place. Which I think is a safe bet. They might successfully subdue some areas, but not all. Long term, one area after another will become unruleable. Add in severe economic trouble, disease outbreaks due to failing health care and sewage main breaks along with water contamination, troops needing to help against huge crime upsurges, an unhealthy dependence on high tech needing foreign parts and a total mechanized military, the trouble of depending on troops to fight fellow citizens and even the inability to properly feed and reequip soldiers and I can almost bet on the military being too inefficient and undermanned to keep the peace.

      This in no way should give you peace of mind regarding military suppression and martial law. You could very well be effected. This is a long-term outlook. Short term, you could find yourself battling police forces, the military, criminal gangs, local militia, or more than one at a time. Which should worry you. Not only because it means you might get killed, but because trade will stop or become disrupted and you might find yourself with a dwindling stockpile of ammunition to protect yourself. If China stays around as a viable power, you might see them eager to help out the disruption and arm whatever group they see as helping their interests (which is the destruction of the US as a military power able to challenge them), but that is not a sure enough thing to base your choice of a personal firearm on. In other words, the steel cased ammo that feeds an SKS or an AK-47 may or may not still be available.

Unless you can stockpile as much as you think you will need beforehand. This projected resupply problem is why I frown on semi-automatic weapons. They are superior as fighting weapons in a lot of aspects, except logistics come collapse. Now, as much as I disagree with the direction our country has taken away from a Constitutional Republic, rest assure that if and/or when the government is unable to keep the Union together come collapse, local tyrants are not going to be any better and most likely will be a lot worse. Local strong men won’t even acknowledge there is any rule of law other than that from the barrel of a gun. And they won’t see anything wrong with wringing all the wealth from the citizens without regard of their long term health. And since they don’t rule from far away they will be much more effective in their suppression. So, while it will be nice to see the current group of thugs lose power, their replacement will be much worse.

So, after you get done suffering economically as everything you know and are used to (cheap energy, welfare state, your currently employable skill ) is done away with, after a short depression followed by hyperinflation kills any savings and dwindles your emergency supplies, you’ve just seen the warm up of the collapse. Oil will start running out or become unavailable from overseas. Food won’t be delivered and many people will start to go hungry. The military will try to contain unrest with brute force. The ghettos will spew violent criminals and race dominated wars. The US will start to break up. Infrastructure will collapse. Water won’t run, the toilet won’t flush. Disease will spring up everywhere, to include a lot of resurgent tropical or Third World diseases. Perhaps even a few man made ones to use against dissident areas. Neighbors will try to turn you in for rewards, crime will explode as authority recedes. If you don’t die now from mugging, kidnapping or home invasion, you might be gang raped and die later of AIDS. Both male and female. This is the start of the huge die-off.

K.  Die off
Die off’ will be due to a lot of different things. Disease. Hunger. Exposure to the elements without heat or cooling. Crime, which includes losing all your stored food and equipment. Combat with police or the military. Widespread death will happen. The global carrying capacity of a non-oil, primitive agrarian society is less than a billion people. And this number is assuming the entire population knows how to survive without petroleum. Since a lot of areas have completely lost their roots with nature, that figure will initially be less. Say half a billion. Globally. However, it is the nature of things that when a die off happens, the numbers of survivors fall sharply below the natural carrying capacity to begin with.
Rome went from the center of a vast civilization, a metropolis of its day, to little more than a village after collapse. Mayan cities went from large urban centers to overgrown jungle ruins with a few paltry settlements set on their fringes. China always had its farmers as the center of its civilizations and fared better, although in recovery its population figures did fall sharply. Populations are built up, having conquered farmlands to swell its numbers. Centralization helped the numbers increase. But when the lands carrying capacity was surpassed and there were no more victims to plunder, population took a swift downturn. Crime, disease, starvation and warfare took its toll. This process has been likened by others as a bottle of alcohol being brewed, and I can’t top that description. A sugar rich environment aids a rapid increase in the culture, who eat up the available food. When a critical mass is reached and the culture dies off to almost zero. There is no more food left. We are left with a bottle of spirits, which is a good thing. In the human environment, you are left with a corpse ridden field with just a few survivors remaining. In our case, the die off will result as the remaining oil is not sufficient to feed the swollen population. Most die off from hunger and the remaining few take the little available fertile soil and relearn organic farming on a decentralized level. Animal population are another illustration. In an example from others, a herd of caribou is introduced on an island which has overgrown with lichen due to no known “predator”. With this rich food source, the caribou population goes from a few pairs to hundreds or even thousands. The natural replenishment rate of the food is, say, a hundred. But once too many animals are there, once the plants no longer feed everyone, almost all of them die from hunger and just a dozen or two remain. Then it takes time to bring the population level up to that optimum hundred. Once the oil level declines just enough on a permanent basis to cease feeding all six billion, Humans, will see die off far below the level the globe can naturally feed with solar energy alone. Oil doesn’t have to run out, just fall below today’s needed level.

L.  Survival preps
This is where survival preparations come into play. You aren’t storing enough provisions to live forever. For most, a daunting if not impossible task (to say nothing of preparing for multi-generational survival). What you are doing is trying to prepare to survive the die-off period. Food stores are only part of the picture anyway. You must survive the conflict that accompanies the die-off. People will not stay at home, meekly waiting a slow death as the cupboards stay bare. Towards the end there will be no more strength to fight for what they need. But initially, they will try to take what they need to survive.

This is why a retreat out in the boonies is so often advised. It is far from the perfect answer, of course. Day to day employment and provisioning is necessary. And few have the means of buying this kind of land anyway. You can find remote land. The West is full of vast areas seeing no settlement other than near water sources. But the “perfect” retreat, with fertile land, woods for fuel, and available water is rare and expensive. I advise what I call junk land. The crap no one wants and is nothing more than a patch of dirt. You won’t pay much more than a thousand or two for it. But it has a poor road leading to it, no surface water or shallow water table, infertile soil and most likely in an economically depressed area. You can actually use these flaws to your advantage since few people will be nearby. It isn’t a farm, ready to feed you and your family. It is merely a legal squat so that in the initial collapse you won’t be harassed for camping on public land or private property or on the side of the road. Your supplies will keep you alive, not the land. After the troubles have subsided you can move to better land, into a settlement to barter any skills you have, or take up banditry or become a nomadic herder. No good answers, but if you are poor to begin with you don’t have a lot of options to pick from.

      It is impossible to guess the time period of collapse and die off. Some maintain it will be a long drawn out process. An emergency, shortages, ad hoc solutions. A traumatic period, then a leveling off as people adjust to the new way of doing things. Then, further resource depletion and more emergencies. More depopulation until the “new” level of resource availability is met. A period of relative calm until another spasm of die off, adjustments to the next level of food availability. Etcetera. This could very well happen, as illustrated by the two hundred year Mayan decline or the three centuries it took Rome to fall. I’m far less optimistic. Back then, a primitive level of agrarian existence was practiced, even as farms became bigger with conquest or water sources were centralized. Come overpopulation and soil depletion, you merely saw enough famine to adjust to less population, that which matched less fertile soil or limited water. Today, most soil is already infertile, only producing because of oil inputs. Farms are far from population centers and transportation is required. Instead of ninety percent of the population farming, there is only a few percent, in the single digits. Most farm areas have water availability issues, such as California seeing drought decrease mountain snow melt off or aquifer depletion in the middle part of this country (Texas, Nebraska, etc.). The adjustments needed will be much larger than in the past. There is far less knowledge of farming than in the past (we concentrate on the industrialized First World throughout). There is far less farmland available than in the past, due to artificial fertilizers and mechanized farming growing so much more per acre. I foresee a much bumpier, more rapid decline than in the past because of all this.

M.  Types of preps
Survivalists come in all shapes and sizes and they usually rival the different sects of Christianity in their dispute over doctrine. There are primitive Stone Age adherents, short term ‘weather disaster preppers’, ‘nuclear fallout shelter occupants’, ‘back to the landers’ only concerned with growing their own food, Yuppie Survivalists intent on recreating every luxury of their middle class existence in Armageddon mode, hoarders of gold and silver that will buy their salvation, modern day desert hermits who will survive through a collapse unknowingly due to loss of contact, or, my favorite, ‘frugal preppers’ that can prepare on almost nothing as their needs have been pared down to the bare minimum. I can’t say which group has the most chance of arriving intact on the other side of die off.
•  The Stone Age practitioners are least vulnerable to technological collapse, but any number of poor marksmen with modern firearms can invade their territory and kill off all large game leaving him nothing to eat but berries, insects and small rabbits. Will there be enough skins to get him through winter, or is he far enough away to thrive?
•  The short-term preppers don’t stand much of a chance with limited supplies unless there is an instant die off such as an asteroid strike, Yellowstone volcanic eruption or nuclear exchange and he can pick and choose supplies lying around as in a poorly budgeted B-movie.
•  The nuclear crowd is well equipped to survive only one type of disaster. Or will the local tax man except MRE’s in lieu of property tax during an economic depression?
•  The ‘back to the landers’ are well equipped to feed themselves, their arriving family and perhaps a neighbor or two. Unfortunately most of their plans need to have a strong government capable of keeping the lawless forces away from them so they can continue to till the soil unmolested. Plus, they usually owe a mortgage on their perfect farm and are thus susceptible to economic downturn.
•  The Yuppie Survivalists are the school most taught by authors of best selling preparedness books. That is because the breed will buy anything that promises to save them in complete comfort. Authors and salesmen follow the money and sell to these people. The ones who can’t stand the thought of any decrease in their standard of living. Instead of stocking candles for illumination they will buy $800 worth of solar panels, 12v auto lamps and a few hundred bucks in marine batteries to see with while off  the grid. Their whole preparedness plan is just like this, spend one hundred times the needed amount for tools because they can’t let go of their soft and comfortable lifestyle.
•  The precious metal advocates are not wrong because “you can’t eat gold”. Precious metals will play a vital part after the recovery. They are wrong because they think money alone, even in a safe inflation proof form, will help them survive. They only look at the aftermath, forgetting one must travel a ways through treachery to get to a society living once again on a gold standard.
•  Desert rats that are not at the end of their hoard of beans and bacon can blissfully ignore the world crashing around them as they are alone in the wilderness and protected from the folly of their fellows. Unfortunately, they only postpone the day of reckoning when they must come in for resupply.
•  Frugal preppers are not the most enlightened nor the smartest. This school of survivalism is not any more perfect than most other types. Except for one critical factor. It allows anyone, even those of the most humble economic means, to prepare as much as possible for the coming collapse. This is why it should be much more attractive than it currently seems to be. Especially during the current economic collapse when job losses are epidemic, credit continues to contract causing companies that were just a year ago sound and prosperous to see so many problems beset them.

These go hand in hand, where companies have no choice to salvage some stock value and continue to give their top echelon workers a “merit” based raise or bonus at the end of each quarter. Before, when cutting costs was the path to efficiency during boom times, workers were habitually laid off. Today, vastly increased numbers are given pink slips regardless of the long term effect this might have on productivity. Panic mode is in full bore and where once the left over work force was compelled to handle the increased work from fired coworkers, now the trimming is so close to the bone it is doubtful the companies can survive. Before, another competitor bought off the suffering company with cheap and plentiful debt. Now, entire industries will all but disappear to a fraction of their former selves to claim the reduced demand of cash negative and credit impaired customers. States and all other levels of government are also seeing their ability to borrow suffering, and since they can’t print money like their brothers at the Federal level they will have no choice but to ax civil servants. Government will not be the safe haven for workers it used to be during downturns. Therefore, everyone should be very wary of being able to keep their jobs and thus their mortgages, credit rating, SUV’s and other badges of a middle class lifestyle. You would think a cheap way to insulate against calamity with an affordable stock of food and protection and alternate energy would be most welcome by frightened workers. Alas, the herd instinctively runs to the big money boys, the Yuppie Survivalist teachers and suppliers. Just as they did during the 1970’s.

      If you are one of the few that sees the futility of spending twenty grand on an arsenal, a quarter million on a remote farm and five grand per person on freeze dried field rations, welcome to frugal survivalism. Anyone can have the basics for under a grand. That includes food, shelter, protection, filtered water. Another three grand will see you safely on your own paid for land in a more permanent shelter.

To briefly summarize; The basics consist of a store of whole wheat kernels bought from a feed and grain store (untreated by vet medicine), stored in five gallon poly buckets. A $25 cast iron grain grinder. A moron proof way of constructing your own 13,000 gallon water filter for just $50. A used WWII surplus bolt action thirty caliber rifle, usually on sale under a hundred bucks. There is a bit more to it, but in essence by preparing at a bare bones level anyone can afford to stock a years worth of emergency rations and protect it adequately. The cheap homesteading method is to buy a piece of junk land (usually on E-Bay) on little more than a grand and park a trailer or build a very small cabin on it for the same amount. Most off-grid expenses such as a generator or well or septic can be bypassed cheaply. Remember, preparations only get you through a die off period. Even spending half a million on a remote farm and protecting it with your home grown militia toting semi-automatic carbines and eating MRE’s will do little to increase your chances of survival due to the rest of the world surrounding you and wanting to interfere with your existence. You should clearly see this as you read further. There will be strategies to diminish this threat, but all in all inexpensive functional tools will see you through as well as the much more expensive ones. Mindset will be far more important. Just ask yourself, do I want the help of dirt poor rednecks that learned at the school of hard knocks and are barely equipped. Or do I want a bunch of pampered Yuppies loaded with the most expensive tools who are unaccustomed to almost any hardship outside of the corporate boardroom along for the ride?

II.  Life after the collapse

A.  How far will we collapse

The last time an individual possessed all of the needed skills to survive was during the Stone Age while hunting and gathering. Since the Agricultural Age began almost no farming community has existed without outside trade. Before, an individual could survive physically if separated from his tribe ( psychologically was a different matter ). After, a farming community separated from trading with others could not survive, in most cases. If a local source of salt was available, and if there was an ore deposit nearby then semi-independence was possible. But, by and large, since we tied ourselves to the land we have needed to trade to survive. There were few areas were all the necessities of life were available, so trade allowed far more marginal lands to be settled. For instance, a dry rocky area was perfect for olive groves and produced almost no grain or meat but did have an abundance of oil. Another area rich in soil that yielded a surplus in grain could trade for oil, something they had little of. One area had forests of nut trees. Rather than fell the trees and plant on soil ill suited for anything else, the nut surplus was traded for other foods. Today, it makes sense to grow coffee on hilly areas (or cocaine, but that’s a different story) and trade it to the Americans, who have an over abundance of corn that is a staple of your country. The corn was cheaper (pre-Bush ethanol debacle) grown up north by mechanical means and shipped south than could have been achieved on those steep hillsides. When man was first growing crops and domesticating animals, there were few people and some really choice spots to settle down and grow. As the globe has filled up, trade has become more and more important as people live in far from choice spots. Trade is essential now, even for the barest necessities of survival. Almost no one outside a few nomads still living primitive lives can live without trade.

Why is this important? Because trade is impossible without a functioning economy, trust, rule of law and energy for transportation. All of these things are ending. The US has been living off of creating debt, inflating its currency, bullying its partners into nearly giving away their goods, and little else for some time. Our GNP is no longer a measure of manufactured goods being shipped overseas but of a measure how much the bankers borrowed from China and loaned to consumers through credit cards, how many dollars were created to “buy” our oil from Third World countries, how much houses were inflated in worth to create derivative sales to pensioners in Europe, and other computer manipulated, magically productive activities that only could come true with a healthy sprinkle of Pixie Dust. As our economy unravels, trust in the form of credit is being destroyed. Without trust, no trade takes place. As it is, credit is contracting wildly right now. And there is no end in sight, as everyone else is seeing how manipulative and dishonest our financial community has been. They are starting to show caution to our future promises. The rule of law, or law and order, is breaking down. African pirates holding ships hostage is only one sign of the coming unrest. Month long protests in once placid First World countries.

Energy for transportation is, as already discussed, on a downward trend. Add it up and it spells the eventual halt in trading. At the point where an international police man is impotent, trade falls to a low level, where only luxury goods are profitable, where only precious metal is accepted, and where the bulk of necessities revert to whatever can be produced locally. At that time, we are back in another Dark Ages ( Post Oil Dark Ages ). Mass migrations will occur, as the many uninhabitable areas are abandoned. The rest die off, their area unable to support more than a hand full. After Rome fell, and trade stopped, areas formerly pottery centers of the empire were reduced to being unable to produce anything other than crude approximations of their former wares. Specialists were supported by wide-spread business. They turned out quality and quantity. Once trade suffered, the factories almost reduced to ruins, the specialists departed or killed, the area known for high quality low cost pottery was unable to do little more than turn out misshapen lumpy, poorly glazed pale imitations. This is what the collapse of trade does. Specialists can’t ply their trade, centralization and economics of scale falter. Poorly made inexpert handcrafts take products places. Now, add in our dependency of oil. We are untrained in manufacture due to our dependence on machines. We are unschooled in many modern basics such as chemistry or engineering due to hyper-specialization. We are on the down side of the Oil Age. The collapse can go mighty low once the perfectly aligned parts are disrupted.

      Even if you can get an expert to join your group of survivors, they won’t have oil to run their machines. Or any machines, susceptible to parts failures. Or basic supplies to practice the modern arts due to trade disruptions. Add in the need to eat, and hostile surrounding forces. You all don’t stand a chance, and neither does our modern society. Things will turn primitive really fast. Knowledge alone is no guarantee a process will be practiced. It takes skill, practice, parts supplied from centralized factories far away, a strong defense force to protect against bandits. We all take progress for granted. But destruction is much easier. It takes two minutes with a match to burn down a million dollar mansion that took a year to build and several decades of toil to pay for. And destruction is only curtailed by the forces of law and order. Which will be hard pressed to achieve either. After a certain point is reached, the collapse continues until there is almost complete ruin and almost no one left alive. And where the technology level is far below that once practiced. We will return to a primitive agrarian society, and as our modern tools fail there will be only primitive replacements. Some areas will still pump and distill oil ( on a small level ). Some areas will mine and smelt the metal from the ruins. But it will be unavailable to most due to a collapse of trade and a shrinking of borders.

B.  Lifeboat communities
A nice concept, lifeboat communities. Get a bunch of modern hippies together and start a community that practices all those neat concepts that circumvent the need for oil. French Intensive organic gardening, alternate energy, super insulated buildings, integrated crop/livestock production, old time skills, etc. The first problem with these is that they are very expensive to start, as currently envisioned. It is one thing to put up some mud/straw walls and thatched roof, get a few chickens running around and making your own candles. It is quite another to build straw bale 2,000 square foot houses, greenhouses, import specialty livestock, install solar panels, sink hundred foot wells, convert a truck to bio-diesel, grow specialty crops for the French chef in the towns $75 a plate Yuppie Greasy Spoon, pay property tax and a mortgage on the land, etc. No one is going to get together and do it cheap and primitive, but high dollar and comfortable. Thus, very few go past the planning stage. Then, once your community is up and running, you have a nice big target painted at your front gate. Look, we grow crops here. We can survive the end of oil. Won’t you come on in an conquer us and make us the serfs to your royal personage? Lifeboat communities are not exactly security conscious. They attract the idiots that gazed at Al “I invented the Internet” Gore with a twinkle in their eye and tried to save the world by changing their regular lights with made in China by political prisoner labor fluorescent bulbs. They are not heavily armed with anything more than guilt over their opulent middle class lifestyle paid for with a taxpayer supported job as environmental consultants. Yes, their heart is in the right place. So was Jimmy Carter’s, and he made some colossal blunders.

      Unless you can get together a group of militia that likes to grow organic lettuce, forget lifeboat communities. They could have been the spark that carried knowledge through the coming darkness, if they hadn’t been plundered during the first food shortages. Wishful thinking and fantasy is what led us to this problem of oil dependency in the first place. Wishing upon a star to make it all go away isn’t going to work either. Power will trump righteousness. They might be just what the world will need, but some lazy, vicious greedy punk is going to exploit them quickly. It won’t matter if it is the current mayor or sheriff, a former drug gang or a new home grown power. The natural order of things is for a gang of criminals to exploit the work of others in exchange for “protection”.

C.  Organic farming
Organic farmers are not as vulnerable as lifeboat communities. They are not advertised in New Age magazines, nor do they give interviews to the local TV station for filler in-between the weather and sports scores. They are decentralized and widely scattered. They can include, more often than not, an armed owner. And they are the only way to farm after the oil stops running. Unfortunately, this does not come with a Get Out Of Jail Free Card. Just because you have a skill does not automatically make you precious and invaluable after the collapse. The local ruler can, indeed, force you to share your skills whether you want to or not. And likely not on your terms. When twenty horsemen approach you with an offer you can’t refuse, it might not be wise to do so. They can take family members hostage, burn down your house one night, snipe at you, horse whip you until you concede, etc. You are tied to the land. You can’t run away. This is the problem with farming. It leaves you as a stationary target. It is justifiable when you gaze with pride at a productive field. You created a means to sustain your family out of nothing. Hard work, a large investment. All for nothing when law and order break down and local tyranny triumphs. Unless you are isolated and have a lot of armed men with good logistics, you will not survive on your land unmolested.

      When slavery is mentioned, you usually think about a muscled black hoeing cotton. Grunt work. But look at history. Most advanced civilizations had highly skilled slaves. They were craftsmen, and they were teachers. They were not protected from slavery because they had skills. They were much more valuable than mere field hands, true. That fetched them a higher price at auction. And allowed them far better treatment. But they were still slaves. But you won’t even be that unless you are lucky. You will merely be a serf. Tied to the land. You won’t face as bleak of a future, since modern organic farming is a much better producer than ancient farming. You won’t starve as easily. But you will produce the food for your owner, and you had better do a good job because he will take his cut. You want enough to eat and sell for some small comforts, you grow as much as possible. Organic farming won’t keep you free, just better fed. It will increase your odds of a full stomach. Just not as a free man. That said, this might still be one of the few good options open to you. We will cover the other viable trades likely available after the collapse, but if you don’t realistically see yourself capable of performing them ( or don’t see your family holding up under their demands ) farming might be your only option. It is the only one most of us can practice now. If you have access to land, farming now has several benefits. It reduces your stress from your daily job, reduces your stress about the future, saves you money as times get tough, allows you to eat much healthier at a time when medical costs are making health care an unaffordable luxury, and will see you nicely through the Depression and the initial collapse phase. There is a reason that farming holds such an allure. It is better than money in the bank, which is a tool that only works in good times. Feeding yourself is tailor-made for bad times. Just beware of its long-term consequences when we enter a true dark age.

D.  Population shifts
Another bit of bad news for you to worry about is population shifts. Come collapse, the population will move. Even if little or no automotive transport is available, expect huge population shifts as people flee to perceived safety. Americans have always been nomads, shifting locations to better serve their financial interests. It is bred into us, as normal as breathing. We are not like most other societies, where staying near our safety net meant life or death. There have always been nomadic cultures. But they have been the exception for the eight thousand years we have lived by agriculture. It has paid to stay put. The Mongols were only able to live in areas of rich grasslands. The Gypsies have always been marginal in numbers, and more of a gang of grifters moving away from their victims. The Bedouin were confined to their desert. There is always a place for nomads, as they bring mostly agrarian wasteland into production to the benefit of all. But they are not the majority. The stationary farmers are. So American society has been somewhat unique in its mobility. Largely, this was the process of filling up a huge area that had never been “mined” of its wealth. We killed off the Indians and moved in wave after wave of people taking advantage of unexploited resources. After that was done, we lived the same life but now by living off the accumulated riches of our exploitation. We slowly started living off of our seed corn, the accumulated principle of our savings. That is now over and done with and the decline of our civilization has started, but the huge numbers of autos, the large amount of oil we take from others by trade or force, all this still gives us the illusion of the wealth we had and we still feel free to move around. A perpetual band of Okies seeking the illusive Golden State.

The point being, Americans are still very much in the habit of thinking riches (or at least safety) are just over the horizon. Most will turn into unknowing refugees with very little provocation. Expect several large waves of humans. To the warmer South and Southwest after heating oil, natural gas or even electricity are no longer available to keep them alive in the winter. To navigable rivers and waterways as all other forms of transportation fail. To those areas serviced by hydroelectric power or that have the potential to once again be dammed. From cities to the surrounding areas to farm the land. Away from highly populated areas to almost anywhere else regardless of its suitability. And from infertile areas to farms or potentially farmed areas. Thus, after waves of crimes, you can see waves of refugees and then waves of immigrants. You need to be aware if your area is a target, since all your careful plans can be disrupted if too many walking mouths move in next to you. To help visualize the scale of this, just think of Hurricane Katrina. Half the city of New Orleans took up permanent residence in other areas. And most of those people were life time welfare recipients with no skills and poor attitudes, thinking the government owed them a living and that crime was both recreation and if incarcerated their lifestyle would improve. Some areas such as Houston Texas were negatively affected by this influx of useless demanding refugees. Now multiply these tens of thousands at least several thousand times, and make it nationwide. This is what you can look forward to. Without much law and order, with no welfare system and not enough food even for the locals already there.

Warmer areas are naturally going to attract those needing to survive winter. There are plenty of hardy folk, braving out winters by storing up wood and food during summer. They like to live this semi-independent style as their ancestors did. But for every one modern pioneer, there are tens of thousands who live in normally frigid areas yet have no idea how to live with the cold. They go from natural gas heated dwellings where they wear the thinnest clothing, scurry hurriedly to their petroleum warmed cars and drive to work where central heat continues to comfort them. They expose themselves to a mere few minutes of cold a day, a thick synthetic jacket covering their torso, with tennis shoe clad feet, bare hands and not much else differentiating their clothing from what they wear in the summer. They are totally dependant on fossil fuels and a functioning infrastructure during the winter. They won’t be able to adapt to lack of oil. They will head south. Modern homes are largely not made to withstand the cold without petroleum inputs. Nor are southern dwellings made to be inhabited without air conditioning. This itself could be a life threatening situation, but that will seem a minor problem when the southeast reverts to its true habit of killing off its population with tropic diseases. On top of disease caused by improper sanitation, expect the return of things such as malaria. The northerners will discover their new home is a pestilent swamp which, without modern pest control and drug deliveries, will kill them off as quickly as the cold would have up north. The southwest will offer nothing more than starvation as the power fails and irrigated farms dry up as the water is no longer available. Even if a few wells still stay in production, the new population will overwhelm its capacity. If the newly empowered Mexican Rights advocated don’t go on a White killing spree as they quickly try to give back several western states to Old Mexico ( they will soon find it was the Yankee wealth that was coveted, not more desert, something Mexico already has enough of ). And water availability, already a life and death struggle, will just get worse with no oil and new state un-cooperation.

Most of the US population already lives close to a waterway. Partially, this is a holdover from when water was the only reliable and affordable transportation. As trade is essential to life, the waterways will take on increased importance. If certain areas still have desirable farmland, such as the plains states ( that which can be sustained by rain alone and not irrigation ), you might still see depopulation if their links to other areas are severed. At first, rail will hold an advantage over road freight, being much more energy-efficient. But in time, as infrastructure fails and fuel dries up ( as well as spare parts ), rail will fail and ancient waterways will become the only way to move goods. In the newly primitive state of existence, the level of technology will dictate this. Ocean front inhabitants may or may not see a continuation of trade. It depends on location, if they can offer an outlet to needed goods. For instance, Southern ports might be viable if tobacco becomes a new cash crop again. Los Angeles should not survive. It has little natural water available and is a thoroughly modern port. Unless the Long Beach port continues to receive container cargo from China, what is the point of it? Unless, somehow, paved over areas are exploited for their oil pumping potential, you will see very little L.A. has to offer that others need. And if water can’t be imported from the Sierra’s ( assuming its snow pack doesn’t shrink too much), forget the crop potential from the San Fernando valley. Even if they continue to grow, expect fighting over its resources to disrupt things anyway.

Sacramento has potential, with its delta watering crops and that outlet to the Pacific. But, expect levee breaks and flooding. What is currently there will be vastly altered. Yet, the thing to keep in mind about California is it is so overpopulated it will have major conflicts from now until it is largely depopulated. It will not be a pleasant place to live. Far down the future, after modern life and its supports have been erased, most freshwater and some seawater areas will be where most of the population live. Without pumping water by artificial means, man must accept those areas Mother Nature offers to live. For trade and for the life water makes possible. And a last word about population shifts and California. Much is made about the Golden Hoard, the masses of refugees moving from California out to all other surrounding states in times of disaster. The same can be said about the northeast corridor. Huge numbers of people with no means of support after oil. They won’t have any good place to go. But they will go there anyway, as anyplace will seem advantageous compared to the gang warfare, the militia fights, the cannibals and the racial conflict. The mass starvation, out of control fires, the water supplies being disrupted. Beware the arrival of these desperate people with insatiable demands and nothing to offer. Hope your community has an easily blocked, minimal amount of entrances.

In the 1970’s, as commercial survivalism reached its zenith, too many books to recount gave the same good advice. Get out of the cities, the urban areas, the ghettos. They told you to pick any city over a certain size on the map and then draw a circle around it for three hundred miles. This was the death zone.
You didn’t want to live anywhere near an area a car load full of gasoline and Angry Armed Minorities could travel to in the event of a disaster. The three problems with this advice were that,
1)  the cars could only travel along roads so that a lot of those drawn circles were still habitable,
2)  if you avoided all circles, there was maybe two areas you could retreat to and they had no stores or water for a hundred miles, and
3)  as the car loads of hostiles drove towards you, mechanical difficulties and the fact that not everyone had a full tank of gasoline meant that the immediate areas surrounding a city were much more dangerous than those a little bit further along (in other words, the danger dropped rapidly).

This did expand your options slightly, enabling you to choose a spot closer to work or affordable housing. But of course, this only addresses the immediate danger in the event of calamity. I think most philosophies were heavily influences by the Cold War, nuclear weapons and their fallout and the ability to live normal until the very end. This is simply wishful thinking, but to this day the ‘bug out’ is discussed and adhered to as a viable strategy.

Recently, after the nation as a whole has switched over to ‘just in time’ inventory where as soon the continually moving replenishment system hits a snag supplies dry up as no one carries excess inventory, hurricanes have shown how roads turned into instant parking lots and gas deliveries are severely disrupted. That alone should keep people from trying to work in one place and live a self sufficient lifestyle elsewhere. Yet, they simply carry more gas cans and map out alternate routes on minor roads. But, regardless of short term problems, the long term is what we are concerned about. Even out of shape people can walk at least twelve miles a day (the California missions were located twenty miles apart along the coastal chain, telling us this was the norm for encumbered travelers back before cars). It won’t take that long before all areas that are deemed desirable see the refugees show up there. So, if you do get caught up in mapping evacuation routes and population centers, follow the roads rather than a drawn circle surrounding a city. You are a lot safer, at first, away from the cities, even closer than three hundred miles. But in the end, those on foot will find your area if it is desirable. My strategy is to live far away from everyone, where few will want to go. Of course, it has its own set of problems.

There is a potential monkey wrench in the normal perceived flow of refugees. Global warming. Now, I hate Al Gore. I’m convinced that he didn’t contest the skewed Florida election results so the Supreme Court could crown Bush the new king in record time. As a result he was rewarded financially in a rather handsome manner (W. Bush is a total moron that needs help completing a coherent sentence, proof positive moneyed interests were behind both his election and the Gore buy off). After the election, he becomes, in effect, new global weather czar. He and his traveling circus travel the globe (in carbon spewing planes) trying to alarm everyone about global warming. He made a lot of money on his lecture circuit. So much so that he can drive his huge carbon spewing SUV’s from the airport to his huge country home, using more polluting natural gas to heat his several thousand square foot office space each month than the average American uses to heat their dwelling all year. So I am not totally sold on the concept of global warming. Rather, I should say I have problems accepting global warming is man-made, or that we can do much about it. When there is money to be made, place your hand firmly over your wallet. The scores of scientists genuflecting before their new idol, lashing themselves with branches, their mouths foaming in ecstasy as they proclaim everlasting devotion and fidelity, all this leads me to wonder if global warming isn’t full of crap. We do have the new solar cycle starting, promising colder weather as sunspot activity is down sharply. Yet, colder weather can lead to less moisture. And those pictures of retreating glaciers are pretty convincing. In the end, unfortunately, you must decide these things for yourself. No one, especially not me, can know enough about your circumstances to guide you through more than superficial preparedness. It is all fine a well to give advice on the basics such as food, water and weapons. It is quite another to give advice that effects your family. No author knows your circumstances, so all the posturing, positions and philosophy must be taken with a grain of salt. We present an argument, you decide if it has merit. Myself, personally, put enough stock into the possibility of rising sea levels that I never bought property in Florida. I left there for Nevada, higher and drier and so many less population. I made the right decision, for me.

Now, come rising sea levels, if they indeed occur, you are going to have the opposite problem of refugees. Rather than heading towards warm climates, they will be headed away from them. Or, headed from warm and wet climates to both colder climes and those warm but dry such as the southwest. I love the desert, personally. Mostly the fact that it is quiet and peaceful and lacking of hoards of slack-jawed mindless humanity. If this eventuality occurs, you might wish to be far away from seawater flooded areas. You look at a sea of starving humanity in refugee camps and you think of passive people glad to get their small cup of gruel every day. That is not what American refugee camps will look like. They will be short on weapons, since the politically correct police will disarm before allowing entrance, but attitudes can’t be checked at the door. To a man they will be belligerent and nasty, hostile and demanding and full of a sense of entitlement. They will demand full supplies (food cooked by others and available menu fashion to allow individual choice) and will put forth no effort for it. In fact, I would wager that in the act of wiping themselves after the digestion process in complete, they rue the effort involved on their part in that. The refugees on the road will have the same attitude. Our government long ago chose to pacify the mobs by allowing them to live off of a lavish welfare state. At the same time the government, as it was doing to everyone else, encouraged a sense of outrage at others. The divide and conquer routine. The young resent the old for their Social Security. The poor resent the rich. The ghetto dwellers resent anyone working. It works great to deflect anger from the government while also forcing a dependence on them. It is a win/win for those in power. After the system comes unglued, it spells trouble for the survivors. You have untold multitudes unable to take care of themselves and quite willing to band together to take what is yours. They are, after all, an exploited minority and deserve to be taken care of since they were oppressed and unable to fend for themselves

(as a good example of this, look to whites in South Africa today, after the blacks took over and started to loot the old western nation ). Fear their arrival as waves of refugees….”

If you’d like to read the entire book, Life After the Collapse by James M. Dankin
Click here to order the eBook version: http://www.lulu.com/shop/james-dakin/life-after-the-collapse/ebook/product-4419799.html
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End of article (Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/Life After The Collapse, 2-2)

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Life After The Collapse, Part 1 of 2

Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/Life After the Collapse, Part 1 0f 2)

Part I.  Life After the Collapse (a sample from the e-book)

Life After The Collapse © 2009, by James M. Dakin
Click here to order the eBook version: http://www.lulu.com/shop/james-dakin/life-after-the-collapse/ebook/product-4419799.html
Click here to order the Paper book version: http://www.lulu.com/shop/james-dakin/life-after-the-collapse/paperback/product-11179055.html

A.  Introduction
What will life be like after a collapse? This topic has been addressed by scores of fictional works, both the written novel and in movies. Many more short stories dwelt with various aspects of the topic. This also might be thought of as a work of fiction, because it is just like all the others, a WAG (wild ass guess). The only reason I think I might even have something remotely valid to contribute is I focus mainly on life after the Age Of Oil ends, and my guess is it ends badly. I could be totally wrong. I really hope so.
As badly as our current system is, the majority of us are either exploited poor or wage slaves encumbered with a pair of golden handcuffs, it still beats living a barbaric existence of dog eat dog, hands down. But I don’t think I am wrong. I’ve spent a great deal of my time, my effort and even my savings both studying and preparing for just such an occurrence to rudely alter my life. I don’t delude myself thinking that just because I’ve done this that I will be right. I am merely gambling. Just as I believe those that don’t are also entering their wager in this great game.
It is all a game, because none of us can know for sure. But only the blind or the blindly optimistic don’t plan for it one way or another. If you think things will continue as normal (at this point, a multi-generational slow decline) you invest your time and money in a college education, an automobile and a mortgage. If you think things will end badly you strive to insulate yourself somewhat by preparing for collapse. Obviously, you aren’t reading this as a part of your higher learning coursework.

I hope this humble work is more detailed and comprehensive than others of its kind. I hope I give you much more to think about than what end of the world fiction has. Fiction is a great vehicle, in that we think visually. Fiction plays into that medium. But I’ve yet to become proficient in fiction, so this booklet is what I offer. I’m going to cover the collapse in a quick overview. Not because I’m trying to fluff up this work. If I wanted to do that I would cover the multitude of reasons why collapse could occur. The end of oil isn’t the only possibility. No, I want to go through the collapse period because most likely this is going to effect you. I wish I could live on a remote mountaintop, enough supplies to divorce myself from society secured away. I wish I could avoid the coming messy business of society self destructing. I’m not that lucky and neither are you. So I won’t completely ignore what is likely to happen. But I promise not to spend too much time there. I have a burning desire to know what things will look like in our brave new world. As I imagine you do. By trying to spell it out I help myself as well as you. It won’t be perfect. It is just my best guess. I do know it won’t be pretty.
This is not a book destined to sell a lot of copies. I don’t include the required happy ending. Most authors seem to think they need to devote half the pages to giving you a glimmer of hope. A course of action to stop the insanity. Perhaps thirty years ago whining to your Senator produced change (or perhaps that change was for the worse, such as squandering our last giant oil fields on business as usual ). Today our Empire is on course to crash and burn. There is no going back since the vested powers won’t change. We are as the Roman Senators, working the last of the land for the last of the wealth, regardless of loss of soil fertility.

Why write this at all? Even writing short booklets is a lot of work. My financial gains will be minimal. The reading might well be interrupted by grid failure, as this will most likely never see past the electronic version. As I said, laying this out in semi-coherent thought helps me myself visualize what lies ahead. And, I like to think I am also helping those that want to think rationally. Those that don’t need a sugar-coating with their message. Perhaps seeing clearer will increase the odds of survival. That’s as happy an ending as it gets.

B.  Why a collapse?
Why am I convinced a collapse will occur? Why won’t we just see a gradual decline of our fortunes, as has usually occurred throughout history? After all, the average span of a historic collapse has been hundreds of years. Rome took 300 years to wind its way down. The Mayans saw 150 to 200 years from glory to jungle overgrown pyramids. My short answer is energy. Think back to the rapid advances we’ve seen since coal was first used, then oil. All these dizzying economic and technological advances were against the backdrop of an ever-growing pool of energy. Today, the entire economic foundations we enjoy are oil based. There are no more animal powered farms. No more agriculturally advanced armies. No more solar-powered industry. Not in any dominate form. That is only at the margins of society. You don’t revert suddenly to the forms of social and economic activity that sustained you one hundred years ago. All that activity rests on a slow laboriously constructed infrastructure. It takes many lifetimes of blood, sweat and tears to build anything the next generation can advance from. When you totally replace that infrastructure, you can’t magically go back to that place and time again. And we’ve replaced it all with petroleum energy.

We don’t even own the means of production anymore. Our industry is now overseas, mainly in China. What is left is all high technology and oil dependant. It’s not like we have the factories to start producing animal powered farm implements. Or the knowledge to do so even if the factory was there. Or the credit and financing to do so if we could. Hundreds of years previously, at least in some cultures, those illiterate peasant knew how to farm the land and built all their tools from what nature provided. Today, something as simple as building a bow and some arrows is a lost art. It is a simple concept, and those with the time can relearn the art. But without new training and the time to do it, you can’t suddenly master that task when your center fire rifle uses its last round. Now multiply that simple trouble by several orders of magnitude. Who knows how to convert a diesel train back to a wood fired boiler? Who can feed more than themselves when commercial fertilizers are no longer produced from natural gas? Who gets food from that hypothetical farm using that hypothetical train? I’m sure in hobby form all the lost arts of bygone eras are mastered and practiced today. But the numbers are minuscule. And who’s to say they won’t be casualties during the coming die-off? Or that they won’t live an impossible distance away?

Things aren’t so simple that we can revert to an economy based on less or no oil. Every activity in an economy is dependent on an infrastructure. Without the underlying support system, you can’t do anything. You need an industry, an educational system, a system of law and order, a transportation system, a system of payment and credit. Look at most of Africa today. They have vast treasures of natural resources in the ground. Yet, a corrupt system of rulers, a lack of a justice system, lack of a sound currency all keep those resources locked away. No one will invest and work without a guarantee that their efforts will not be subject to theft. Others countries all have an infrastructure where the opposite occurs. Investment is encouraged and rewarded. Look at oil. It doesn’t just appear at your gas station. There is a vast system that brings it from the ground to a distillery to you. It took a lot of time, effort and investment to put that system into place. It didn’t happen overnight, but over generations (with a lot of war and other calamities interrupting the process). The same must happen in reverse. In order to put a system into place that allows another system of energy or economic activity to happen, time and effort must be invested to build that system. The infrastructure of yesteryear is no longer in place. It was replaced and dismantled. Without a sound system to rebuild it, you end up with only the current dysfunctional system until the end.

In the 1970’s, we were rudely awoken to the need to replace our current reliance on petroleum. No widespread system for an alternate source of energy was introduced. Rather, conservation was used. We learned to be more efficient with less energy. But we didn’t replace petroleum. Lucky for us at the time, we went back to a glut of oil from Alaska and the North Sea, as well as replacing our currency backing with Saudi Arabian oil instead of gold. That saved us. But now, all those sources of oil are pretty much used up. Britain has gone from an energy exporter back to an importer, Alaskan crude is down significantly and is staying there and the Saudi fields are in permanent decline. And there will be no large fields to replace them. There hasn’t been a major oil field discovered for almost fifty years, and not for lack of effort. Coal will not last long if used to replace oil, nuclear fuel is not infinite, all hydro sources are already tapped. Ethanol seems to be a net energy loser, as well as doubling our food prices by using edible corn. Tar sands are also a net energy loser. We had nowhere to turn thirty years ago, and no where today. Petroleum was the only answer. Because it provides so much energy in such a compact space, no other energy source could compete. All others fell by the side. We have no other wide-spread source of energy available. And there is no incentive to provide one. All powerful and rich entities reliant on oil have vested interests in keeping things the way they are. They will go down with the oil powered ship.

Civilizations decline with the economic and energy system in place that brought them to power. There might be a few exceptions over time such as Japan. But they are the exception to the rule. Most civilizations follow a similar road. They do something right, that at the time brings them to power. Those in charge got rich following that path. They won’t give up that source of wealth. Usually as the system starts to decline, centralization keeps things running by bringing efficiencies of scale. In time, between the powers that be gripping their wealth and the lack of resources to keep the existing structure maintained or to devolve back to a decentralized form of production (even assuming the rulers would allow that), they collapse. In the end, ninety some odd percent of the population is dead or immigrated and the area is left fallow to replenish itself (in solar-powered civilizations, soil fertility is used up and produces collapse by hunger- a fate we will only avoid as long as oil fertilizes the soil we’ve used up). When our oil runs out, we all die. The soil stops producing food. We are no different from ancient civilizations other than we were able to grow much bigger and postpone collapse longer because of our one time use of petroleum.

      And we don’t need to get to the point where we run out of oil. All that is necessary is that we run out of enough. Oil production follows a bell curve. Rapid increase, a slowing to a plateau, then a drastic decline. Oil fields, oil regions, or global oil all follow this pattern. Not only is that bad enough, where we have nothing to take the place of petroleum, but here in the US it is even worse. We have built our entire system on not just oil but cheap and abundant oil. Where most other nations have never had the luxury of their own supplies, we have been cursed with an over abundance. We were blessed with one of the worlds largest supplies of petroleum, to the extent that we were the global leading exporter of oil until after the second world war. That allowed our economy to explode. But as oil reaches its global peak (the top of the plateau was reached in 2005) our dependence on cheap and abundant petroleum turns into a curse. Our economy, even our political system in the form of a generous welfare state to placate the masses, is based on lots of oil at essentially free prices. Nuclear power never reached its promise of “too cheap to meter”, but oil was always essentially at that point. That concentrated energy source was the equivalent of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of man hours of labor in every unit. And most of our existence has been dedicated towards making that labor as cheap as possible. Gold, a mineral so scarce that all of it ever mined could fit in a small building, buys dozens or scores of barrels of oil which is a non renewable resource. We invade countries to keep oil cheap. Political fortunes turn on the price. We burden our grandchildren with unplayable debt to devote military and intelligence resources to keeping the price low. All told, the sweat and treasure put towards stealing the global oil output is extremely high. That is the hidden cost. But the up front cost is kept low to keep the economy running. When oil reached a reasonable cost of $150 a barrel in the summer of 2008, our economy started to tumble. I say reasonable due to the limits of global daily output being reached and the inflation of the dollar. And the economy would have started to crumble sooner or later due to the massive over subscription to the derivatives market. But the timing is interesting none the less. We absolutely must have cheap, abundant oil for our economy to survive.

C.  PODA  (Post Oil Dark Ages)
PODA is my whimsical and witty title for the coming collapse and its aftermath. Post Oil Dark Ages. In a few generations when our grandchildren are scratching fleas under their animal skins while living in the basements of crumbling skyscrapers, there will still be oil in the ground. Granted, it will be that which was uneconomical to pump out. All oil is not created equal. The stuff close to the surface and without a lot of additional material costly to distill out is what we have mostly been living on. Not that which is two miles under the ocean and hard to get out. It all goes back to cheap and abundant. So we won’t actually run out of petroleum or other carbon fuels. But the consequences will be equal to running out. When the cheap stuff runs out, or it takes as much energy to pump the oil left as that oil yields, it is game over. Things start to fall apart. Crops don’t get planted or harvested, or that food doesn’t get shipped, or both. Essential trade goods don’t make it to our shores. The Age Of Oil ends, the Age Of Scarcity begins. When the military starts taking its dwindling share to take the last of the oil, and that leaves less than enough for food or transport or heat, things start going to hell. It will be a bit of a process, not everything stopping at once. But here is something important to keep in mind. It might take a civilization two centuries to fall into ruin, but that is everything averaged out. In the meantime, even from the first, individuals are adversely affected. When it takes ten years for employment to fall in half, you could be one of the first ones with a pink slip. When it takes twenty years for the death rate to double, you could be one of the first corpses. Averages look good on paper. In person they are a lot more deadly. This is how you need to look at the oil running out, depopulation, the economy falling and other aspects of society unraveling. It might take until your children’s old age for the last of the Petroleum Age to end, but you will be hurt much sooner than that.

      Some theories point to the end of the 1970’s as the start of the end. That is when the per capita amount of energy available started to decline. We don’t see that, being sheltered here in America. But plenty of the world’s population suffers while we fiddle in an orgy of gluttony. It is that average number. We do great, others live on almost no oil, on average the world economy looks good if not perfect. Looks can be deceiving. We are just masking reality. We will eventually see those low numbers. If we survive the unraveling. We will reach the point of less oil. I focus mainly on oil. There will of course be other factors. The credit crisis that started in the fall of 2007 and started to be felt a year later. That is sure to be a lot worse by the time you read this. The natural tendency of governments to hyper-inflate the currency when there is no other way to pay the bills. Our long vanished national grain stockpile and the idiocy of just-in-time inventories (great for saving money short term, suicide come any supply disruptions). Our declining soil fertility due to artificial fertilizers made from natural gas substituting for proper nutrient management. Over population encouraged by corporations as a downward force on real wages. All these things make it worse. But they are not the primary cause of our civilization collapsing. Energy is fundamental to life and an economy. The oil has already started to decline globally. We are making up some of the shortfall with less than ideal substitutions that are big picture energy net losers, such as ethanol and shale oil. Stay tuned. At first it will be easy. Less driving for the holidays. Turn the thermostat down, add insulation. Then, it becomes a lot harder. Rationing, learning to do without. Readjusting. Then it gets hard. Martial law, unrest, skyrocketing crime. Less than enough calories. Than it gets life threatening.
Ready for that journey?

D.  Life during the collapse
So far we have followed trends already occurring. Now we move into murkier waters. The next phase, life during a collapse, is pretty straight forward. We have countless examples during the last century of war and conflict. Our situation will differ slightly, as we are not used to invasion or being an exploited colony. But we can guess at a lot of it. Remember, America was special at one time. We had the best government and the best society, despite a lot of flaws such as slavery, Jim Crow laws, Native American genocide and the like.
Sadly, we are reverting to typical heavy handedness as our resources run down and most likely will become just like any other fascist hell hole in time. The window dressing given our current government transformation should fool no one. Just because you call ‘water boarding’ or rendition Constitutional doesn’t make it any less like torture. Get used to it. It will get worse, not better. All societies decaying get a centralized government to manage the same in the economy. It doesn’t matter who is elected anymore. Not that elections are even fair or just. They are surely rigged. More of the same from now on. Czars will guide the Homeland. We are and will remain a curious American mixture of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russian and will be until the nation breaks apart. To think otherwise is to ignore history.
America was special, but will follow the path of past nations collapsing. We were blessed with natural resources which allowed us to share the wealth. These resources are now gone and as we fight for pieces of the diminishing pie the fight will get ugly. Free men were allowed to remain armed, almost uniquely American in practice. That abundance of personal weapons will make for a very bloody end. That is about the only way this collapse will differ from any other. Men will fight in a more decentralized fashion rather than being dependant on fewer sources for their weapons.

E.  Economic collapse
The collapse starts economically. It already has. Many people think this is a replay of the Great Depression of 1929 to 1942. Understandable as that is the only model on display. So, they believe this is another power grab by the bankers. Before, there were independent banks, not beholden to the new central bank, the Federal Reserve. In 1913 Congress slipped in its creation in a slow holiday period. Those banks that engineered and “solved” a previous bank panic pushed for its creation under the guise of stability. One imagines this was one of the cheapest national and economic power grabs ever. The bribes paid must have been mere pocket change compared to what followed. The banks then loaned money to the Allied powers during the First World War and pushed for our involvement when they were in danger of defeat and hence default. The German reparations also benefited the banks. Which paved the way for Hitler (also thought to have banker backing).
The easy credit of the 1920’s was courtesy of the Federal Reserve, which led to gross over extension and the Wall Street crash. Then, the Fed mopped up by buying failing banks that weren’t part of the central banking system, foreclosed on hard assets such as businesses, homes and farms, plus engineered FDR’s gold devaluation and confiscation to assure its printing press monopoly. It was in effect a decades long coup de ta. So, obviously, the banks know no limit to greed and want even more. Yet, what is there to gain this time? We were the global oil exporter, the globes premiere manufacturing economy. We were the global breadbasket. Today, we have no real economy other than a consumer economy with imported Chinese goods.
We import seventy percent of our oil, so there is a doubt we can even have enough for a bare minimum life support system.
We import twenty percent of our food, with domestic production endangered by water supply problems, oil dependency for fertility and transport and our ethanol program competing for stomachs.
There can be nothing but Monopoly money for anyone trying to win these spoils. I don’t think that this is a banker manipulated problem. It would be stealing gold trim off a sinking Titanic. I think this is the real deal. God, but I wish this was one conspiracy theory I would love to be right. It might mean we wouldn’t collapse in my lifetime. But this does line up with petroleum draw down. So let’s go ahead assuming this is really an economic collapse.

This is just the start of our problems. Normally, a few extra barrels of food, a couple of solar panels, some extra ammunition and a few silver coins would see us through until normalcy returned.
I’ll go ahead and cover the economy, then we can move into the much larger problems of system wide collapse. Those that make the economic collapse a warm up. Economic collapse makes matters worse for everyone, for obvious reasons. With soaring unemployment those households with diminishing income will immediately see petroleum shortages, regardless of outside supply. And when international trade starts to freeze up our nation will face oil shortages regardless of where international supply is at that point. An economic collapse will actually help in the oil run down since far less will be used. Less economic activity will see less energy use.
One the other hand, diminishing demand will scale back exploration, pipeline construction, new field development or even existing infrastructure upkeep. So the effects all in all will be to magnify oil shortages. Already in the winter of ’08 international trade in goods is down sharply, simply from the freeze up in credit. Gasoline prices at the pump were down to the levels not seen for five years (those five years saw doubling prices of everything due to inflation and a weakening dollar). Yet the economic downturn is well under way and decreasing energy prices are not boosting activity. This is the interplay between economics and energy. It looks as if the collapse will continue, mostly economic rather than from oil shocks. Is there a correlation between the three year long drop in oil supply and the economy? Global oil supply fell around five percent. Imported oil to the US fell eight percent. Most likely this was the trigger setting off the financial time bomb that grew larger since the Tech Wreck at the turn of the millennium. For seven years the economy was not allowed to falter due to easy credit creation. Housing bubbles fed the economy. This has faltered drastically and the financial house of cards seems to be going up in smoke.

As employment falls, housing loses value. Less jobs, more foreclosures, less value on homes as values drop as housing inventories explode. Credit is squeezed everywhere. There are no more home equity loans. Personal credit cards are seeing shrinking credit limits. Between the two, no one can make ends meet on credit. Businesses fail as their credit dries up. For a long time, business activity was not much more than buying out your rivals and acquiring its customers. Without credit to expand, business activity shrinks. Driving up unemployment. It is a vicious cycle.
Big businesses with high legacy costs are desperate. When vehicle sales drop due to rising unemployment and shrinking credit, Detroit can’t meet current retiree costs. Bankruptcy looms. If you think Detroit is bad now, with slum homes for sale for $600 in back taxes and an unemployment rate double that of most other areas, wait until the auto makers go belly up. And don’t think Toyota will rescue them. It is seeing sales fall over thirty percent in one year. Japanese companies are very well run, but their biggest customer is the US. Falling demand effects everyone.
Commodities stop their recent drive upwards. Gold companies close due to credit problems. Increasingly, people and businesses look for federal government help. As the government sees overseas loans dry up, hyperinflation is just over the horizon. There will be no other way to pay for the increased need for the welfare state. We will see a short period of declining prices as inventories soar and the remaining businesses are desperate for sales. Then we will see prices go insane as Washington turns on the printing presses (a lot easier now with computers replacing a lot of paper currency).

Remember, the economy is the result of cheap and abundant energy. Nothing else made it possible for our bloated welfare state and empire spanning military to function. Yes, the economy is going to be very important to you as it implodes. After a time, it won’t matter about global oil reserves. The price of gas is unimportant if you repoed your car and the electric company shut off your power. But it is important for a very simple fact. Declining global supplies of petroleum mean that the economy won’t recover. We will have ups and downs, false recoveries and periods of slowing decline. But long-term, we will not see the old days return. It is the beginning of the end. Don’t mistake this for a simple economic Depression. It is also coupled with oil draw down. Decline is here for good. The severity and timing are the only questions.

F.  Oil run down
Oil draw down is the process of running out of petroleum. Oil production is a bell curve. Sharply up, a plateau is reached, the numbers level off and then we start on the down side. A sharp downturn of oil production. Currently we are at the plateau where we have global oil production leveled off. How long this lasts is anyone’s guess. It won’t be that long however. Some very educated guesses have our oil age at about a hundred years. Take 1930 as a start, when oil really started to dominate rather than being a source of illumination only. By the end the 1970’s per capita global energy use started to decline, the half way point. In 2030 we will be back to the level of one hundred years previously in total oil use ( yet with a much larger population and no other way of powering the food and production like we had in 1930 ). But don’t think we have until 2030. The availability of oil is already starting to suffer. All of the king size fields are in decline, including Saudi Arabia. And no large fields have been discovered in fifty years. There will be no Alaska or North Sea oil to save us from the next oil shock. And, least you think cheap gas is a great Christmas present for 2008, this economic disincentive will discourage smaller fields from being exploited. Those would have smoothed out the large field slowdown. Right now the only thing smoothing it out is the fact that economic activity in the worlds largest oil user is in a tailspin. Less US oil use is helping to disguise oil draw down. Enjoy $1.50 a gallon gas, because it will be the last time energy is going to be cheap. We are, simply, running out of energy on a global scale. It wouldn’t be too bad if we only had to turn down the thermostat and stop driving our SUV’s so much. But, we will soon discover to our dismay, cold houses and weeds growing up the wheels of our thirty thousand dollar sheet metal monster are the least of our problems. Oil, today in our country and most other places outside Third World peasant fields, is food. Without oil there is no food. Without food there is famine.

G.  Famine
Famine is not something most of us ever consider. This country has been the bread basket of the world for over a century. The Ukraine used to be the bread basket of Europe before collectivism introduced by the communists. It isn’t that the soil isn’t still fertile, but back again to infrastructure, you need a stable system to reap resources. In America’s case, we are not only farming on infertile soil due to corporate profit being put ahead of maintaining the most strategic resource we used to command, but the only way to continue farming enough to feed the population we have is to pour oil into the process. Most of our fertilizer is not renewable animal manure, but non renewable artificial fertilizer derived from natural gas. We can’t use animal fertilizer as manure, or non mechanized machinery to farm because they don’t work for corporate farming. They are financially inefficient. Corporate farming is our main source of food, and they can’t function without oil. Or, for that matter, easy and cheap credit which may or may not be available in the near future. Now, it is true that there is enough widespread knowledge about intense labor organic farming that we will be able to switch to that form of food production when needed. However, that depends on government no longer favoring large corporations with taxes and subsidies. We can’t go back to decentralized, low lost farming without the government stepping out-of-the-way. Mainly by eliminating high property taxes. As suburbs have encroached on farmland, farmers have seen their land values skyrocket. So their taxes go up. Yet, grains are a commodity sold by volume by the big players. The little farmer can’t compete. The system favors the corporate farmer.

Now, by the time the government no longer favors the rich corporate lobbyist and allows small farms to proliferate, we might already see cracks appearing in the food supply chain. Governments move slowly. Especially if re-election money from deep pockets is at stake. However, our food supply is now on a just-in-time inventory system. We harvest it and ship it out. There are no longer any months long supplies of grain stockpiled, as was the case during the Cold War when it was felt feeding the population in an emergency was a good thing. Now, any widget sitting on store shelves is considered as lost profit to our bankers and corporations. Come any calamity, there is no stockpiled supply to see us through. And even if there were, you need to take into account our transportation system and our banking system. Less oil will also affect our ability to ship crops. And any problems with our credit system will halt shipping anyway. American business (I have left out of the equation our imported food- it constitutes 20% but is mostly processed or luxury goods and can be survived without) are used to ninety day credit. They buy on credit, then pay after they sell the item. This poses a potential problem. So, again, we see both oil and economics as a problem. Food should not be assumed to remain a gluttonous American birthright. We can see a famine, and since none of us remain farming the land it could be as bad as any African calamity or even worse. We have no cushion against shortages. And no stockpile to see our transition from mechanized corporate farming to decentralized local labor intensive organic farming.

H.  Military dictatorship
With both a shock to the economy from dwindling oil supplies and a potential of famine bringing on heavily armed civil unrest, we can be assured that government will at some time or another impose martial law. Whether we see a military dictatorship or not is not even very important. Whatever cosmetics they put on the pig to make it look like something else, the outcome to civilians is going to be the same. Whatever illusion you have that the Constitution will help you will finely be shattered. We don’t have a Constitutional Republic anymore. You can argue we haven’t had one since the War Of Northern Aggression. When a sovereign state which voluntarily joined a Union is forced at gunpoint from leaving same, you can call that a pretty firm break with the document that is supposed to protect our natural rights and limit the power of the government. But, barring that, perhaps because you are a Damn Yankee and won’t confess to a social crime committed by your ancestors like Southerners are supposed to do with slavery, you could at least make a good case that our Republic was sold out by creating the Central Bank in 1913. He that controls the purse strings controls the politicians. Even if that isn’t good enough for you, you have to admit that FDR (may his twisted foul soul be damned for all eternity) took whatever restraints on Federal government there were and wiped his liver spotted ass with them. After him, we had full blown socialism and an out of control military industrial complex along with unbridled bankers and corporate stoolies help them out to rape and pillage what was left of our nation. So, don’t think that quaint piece of paper is going to protect you. It hasn’t and it won’t. The only question we have to ask ourselves is, when and how bad. It is guaranteed to happen. All declining civilizations become despotic at the end. Centralization helps then survive and thrive. But you need a strong government to go from local, decentralized production to centralized control. For a time the economics of scale feed yet more population and bring ever more treasure to the king. When disaster strikes and resources start to run out (fertile soil, neighbors to conquer, rainfall, mild weather, mineral deposits, etc.) you can’t go back, as there are not enough resources to rebuild the old decentralized infrastructure. The only thing you can do is to tighten your control. Try to extract more resources from the profit takers. Try to prevent disorder and rioting as resources run out.

So, don’t think of the power grabbers introducing more fascism as just greedy and controlling. They are, but that is not the point. They are being played by events out of their control, just as you are. Resources run out and the government becomes stronger. They need to keep themselves running, not only to keep order so as to stay in power, but also because those benefiting from the old system won’t allow them to do it any other way. As the system crumbles, those benefiting economically from practices now harming things can’t give up what made them wealthy. They need that wealth to survive.

So, Roman Senators allowed their estates to play out of fertile soil just as there was no more fertile lands to take militarily. Southern plantation owners did the same, just as there were no more states to enter the Union as slave holders. New soil was needed to keep the rich wealthy since they had used theirs up, and there was no more to be had. It is going to be the same with the wealthy of today, those that buy and control politicians. Highly leveraged financial gambles will continue to be sold to the last sucker before the whole economy implodes. The last tanks using the last gasoline will fight over the last oil field, more than likely illuminated by radioactive glows from the distant city sites. No one is going to seriously push for independently owned cheap solar panels on every rooftop. The only serious solar (as far as supplying any large percentage of energy) will be centrally located and controlled by major utilities.

Martial law is as inevitable as the sun rising. No one voluntarily gives up power and wealth. When people begin to starve, they revolt. To keep the revolutionaries from sharing their wealth, the rich use the government to control the population. Luckily for use, our government can’t put many resources into this proposition. There is no real wealth behind them, just printed dollars backed by the ( dwindling supply from ) oil fields of Saudi Arabia. Economics also effects the government’s ability to pay for people and supplies. I’m not saying they won’t steal what they need, just that a broke and weak government is going to be trying to pacify a three thousand mile long nation at a time when transportation is not as easily fueled. As long as the oil flows, a relatively small government and military can control us. In fact, most of us want to be controlled. When that runs out, it will be a long-term losing battle to control us. Small consolation to concentration camp victims or tortured dissidents. I can’t see more that is going to be added from the long sorry history of martial law by us. We will start out being pretty brutal. When you don’t have a lot of resources to control people, you start out trying to terrorize them so most offer no resistance. This is how the Japanese controlled large areas of land with few soldiers. You give that crazy little bastard a bayonet and instructions to chop suey anything less than perfectly obsequious. I can’t see Americans anywhere close to as effective as the Japanese at pacification. We might have a few folks like Janet “BBQ” Reno able to torch small children or jack booted thugs willing to stomp kittens to terrorize a family, but they belong in the psycho wards to begin with. Normal folks have no ability to do these things, let alone to their own countrymen. Plenty can be brainwashed, but not enough to control all of us for very long. Yes, it will be brutal and bad at first, but the few thugs the Feds have will quickly lose control. There will not be enough of them to control the millions too hungry and cold to care anymore. Desperation will help the government for a time, then it will turn things against them. We will happily turn in our neighbors for unpatriotic thoughts, in return for bread and circuses. When that is no longer provided, the ‘narcs’ and stooges will turn on their handlers. Which is when we will see race wars on our way towards the national breakup.

I.  Race wars
The truly ignorant actually try to see a difference in people by their skin color or their religion. This can be pretty comical at times, if you are outside looking in. Such as the Nazi’s and the convoluted racial classifications trying to protect “pure” whites while discriminating against Jews or Slavic’s. Is a White Russian okay, but a Ukrainian not? Or a gypsies bad, even if they are mostly from Aryan stock? Why is a Jew impure if he is from a long line of Germans? Is the picture perfect white German less pure if his great-grandmother one-third Jew? Etcetera. My view is that skin is really not much more than adaptation to environment, but I’m sure that view will get me on a few elimination lists if the three members of the American Nazi party can get a few meth addled skinheads to assassinate me. Well, add the fact that I’ve been married to more than one Mexican gal. I sure wasn’t worried about protecting the purity of my race those times, even if I did practice birth control. Most people, despite the continual indoctrination of our public school systems (the ones controlled by white politicians that send their kids to private schools charging enough tuition to eliminate most of those of a darker hue) still have a certain problem with other races, even if they don’t know why. Typically, I hear racist attitudes along the lines against those types they didn’t grow up around. I have no problem with Mexicans, growing up in Southern California. But to be honest the majority of blacks are like foreigners to me. The reason is not skin color. That is a cop out for those not wishing to think the matter through. It is simply about tribal identity. And fear of the unknown. But mostly tribal. Humans belong in social groups. It is a survival mechanism. And we automatically identify with our tribe and against others. We are usually lazy and rather than rationally voice this, we spew some crap about skin color (and you all know the “colorful” terms used to describe other races). That is a mental shortcut. Give it any amount of thought and you can see what I’m talking about. Tribe equals safety. Other tribal members equal the enemy. Whether they are different skin colored or not is not the main issue, other than that is a sign of their tribal identity.

Multi-racial nations rarely work out long term. The tribal marks are not overcome in difficult times by national identity. During safe, economically easy times, we can all get along. As soon as times turn tough the old tribal markers mean a great deal more. We will have racial conflict. Not because blacks are evil, or whites are superior. It doesn’t matter. You can be any color. Others will turn against you. Skin color is just another excuse to exclude you from another’s tribe. Religion will also be dividing. But with the long history of conflict between the colors in this country, it will be easy to justify unpleasantries against others due to their skin. Blacks have a long grievance against whites, whites have always feared blacks because of this. Mexicans have been exploited economically, and we did steal a lot of their land (although to be fair they stole it from the Indians). Indians were nearly wiped out through germ warfare and have a lot of justifiable issues. I sure wouldn’t want to be living near any fair sized reservation come hard times. Nor near any ghettos, regardless if it is black or Mexican. A wouldn’t want to be a white living in Hawaii for that matter. Living in northern Nevada with a clear majority of whites is not preferred because I am racist. It is because I am trying to be on the local winning tribes side. Simply self preservation. You might give it some thought. Do you trust other tribes to treat you fairly when times get tough and they have an economic incentive to expel you ( less mouths at the limited trough )? And they won’t be offering a first class ticket on Amtrak to leave town. Far easier to attack you with ball bats and tire irons and throw you in a shallow mass grave.

Look at the tribal conflicts in eastern Europe or Africa. Skin color doesn’t come into play as much as actual tribes going back centuries. But the dynamic is the same. Starvation looms and one tribe turns against another. That tribe which eliminates the other survives on the limited resources available. This is human nature and explains why there are conflicts. I’ll cover this more later on, but it is pretty simple. Group identity is a survival mechanism, safety in numbers. And stealing another groups resources guarantees one group will survive in lean times. No one joins hands and sings about one world and helps those less fortunate in times of hunger. Not when both groups are starving. Charity is only possible when one group has a surplus. Without that, one groups kills off another to survive with full rather than half rations. And they will justify it in many ways, racial, tribal, vendettas, etc. Race wars will happen in this country as soon as times get genuinely tough. Count on it or you will belong to the body count.

Continued in (Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/Life After the Collapse, Part 2 of 2)

If you’d like to read the entire book, Life After the Collapse by James M. Dankin
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Filed under Survival Manual, __2. Social Issues

Modern Living: Part V of V (Infrastructure deterioration)

(Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/Death by 1000 cuts/ Modern Living)

Topic: Part I
1.  What happened to the American dream?
2.  Entertainment galore
Part II
3.  Cigarette smoking

4.  Illegal drug use

Part III
5.  Antibiotics and super bugs
6.  Antibiotics in meat
7.  GMO in crops
Part IV

8.  Household Pollutants and Chemical spills

Part V

9.  Infrastructure deterioration


9.  Infrastructure deterioration

System 2009
5 yr. funding requirements(Billions $ projected shortfall) System 2009
5 yr. funding requirements(Billions $ projected shortfall)
A.  Aviation D $40.7 Public Parks & recreation C- $48.1
Bridges C $549.5 D.  Rail C- $11.7
Dams D $7.5 E.   Roads D- $549.5
B.  Drinking water D- $108.6 Schools D $35.0
Energy D+ $29.5 Solid waste C+ $43.4
Hazardous waste D $43.4 Transit D $190.1
Inland waters D- $20.5 F.  Wastewater D- $108.6
C.  Levees D- $48.8

Red topics in table above = Topics discussed below

 A.  Aviation

Air travel in the U.S. rebounded from its post-September 11, 2001, downturn and reached new highs in both domestic and international travel. Enplanements on U.S. carriers for both domestic and international flights totaled 669.2 million in 2000. By 2006, that number had risen to 744.7 million; in 2007 alone, the number increased an additional 25 million to 769.6 million. A sharp increase in the cost of aviation fuel, followed by the recent economic downturn, however, has slowed the demand for air travel. The number of domestic and international passengers on U.S. airlines in October 2008 was 7.1% lower than in October 2007. From January to October of 2008 there were 630.1 million enplanements, a decrease of 2.6% from the same 10-month period in 2007. It is estimated that air travel will increase in 2009 though, the latest forecast (March 2008) projecting an annual increase of 2.9% in domestic U.S. commercial enplanements and 4.8% in international enplanements—a system increase total of 3%.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a goal of ensuring that no less than 93% of the runways at National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) airports are maintained in good or fair condition. That goal was exceeded in 2007: 79% were rated good, 18% were rated fair, and only 3% were rated poor. However, there were 370 runway incursions in 2007—up from 330 in 2006. Due to the FAA’s 2008 change in definition for a runway incursion, this number is likely to increase further. A runway incursion is defined as an incident involving the incorrect presence of an aircraft, vehicle, person, or object on the ground that creates a collision hazard for an aircraft taking off, intending to take off, landing, or intending to land.

Top 10 U.S Passenger Airports 2006-2007
Rank Location Airport
1 Anchorage, AK Ted Stevens Anchorage International
2 Memphis, TN Memphis International
3 Louisville, KY Louisville International
4 Miami, FL Miami International
5 Los Angeles, CA Los Angeles International
6 Indianapolis, IN Indianapolis International
7 New York, NY John F. Kennedy International
8 Chicago, IL Chicago O’Hare International
9 Newark, NJ Newark Liberty International
10 Oakland, CA Metropolitan Oakland International
U.S. DOT, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2008

Every year the industry incurs avoidable air traffic control delays that, while beyond the immediate control of air traffic control personnel, waste hundreds of millions of dollars. In 2007, airlines reported an on-time arrival record of 73.3%, the second worst in history; the worst record—72.6%—was recorded in 2000. The air traffic control system remains outdated and inefficient, and modernization efforts continue to meet with delay. The FAA is seeking to implement its NextGen system; however, drawn-out congressional reauthorization of the FAA funding mechanism is causing delay and confusion among airport sponsors across the nation.

Top 10 U.S. Cargo Airports 2006-2007
Rank Location Airport
1 Atlanta, GA Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International
2 Chicago, IL Chicago O’Hare International
3 Los Angeles, CA Los Angeles International
4 Fort Worth, TX Dallas/Fort Worth International
5 Denver, CO Denver International
6 New York, NY John F. Kennedy International
7 Las Vegas, NV McCarran International
8 Phoenix, AZ Phoenix Sky Harbor International
9 Houston, TX George Bush Intercontinental/Houston
10 Newark, NJ Newark Liberty International
U.S. DOT,  Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2008

The old airline business model is being replaced by a newer low-fare, low-cost model. Between 2000 and 2006, U.S. airlines’ domestic operations reported combined operating and net losses of $27.9 and $36.2 billion, respectively. However, in 2007—for the first time since 2000—the airline industry posted a $5.8-billion net profit. And, cargo carriers continue to report strong results with net profits of $1.4 billion.

Generally, there are four sources of funding used to finance airport infrastructure and development: airport cash flow; revenue and general obligation bonds; federal/state/local grants, including the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants; and passenger facility charges (PFCs). Access to these funding sources varies widely among airports. Since fiscal year 2001, AIP grants have exceeded $3 billion annually, and for the past five years, PFC collections have exceeded $2 billion annually. Together, AIP grants and PFC collections account for 40% of annual U.S. airport capital spending. Since 1990, annual funding for airport capital needs has been in the range of $5.5 to $7.3 billion.1 Since congressional authorization for the AIP expired in September of 2007, the program has operated under a series of continuing resolutions, making long-term planning difficult.

An additional challenge to airport capacity-building is the fragmented nature of airport ownership. Local governments and the private sector represent the majority of owners and investors in air transportation infrastructure, and they tend to focus primarily on their own needs, and only secondarily on national, system wide concerns. According to the NPIAS, there are 3,356 existing publicly owned, public-use airports in the United States, with an additional 55 proposed. There are also 522 commercial service airports, and of these, 383 have more than 10,000 annual enplanements and are classified as primary airports.

Aviation’s rapid movement of goods and services, as well as its support of tourism, is critical to the economic vitality of the nation, and air travel is often chosen over other modes of transportation on the basis of convenience, time, and cost. Thus, the consequence of failure is severe. Additionally, shifts in demand corresponding to threats, delays, and fuel pricing contribute to the volatility of the industry. In a highly complex system like aviation, resilience is not simply a matter of technical or facility upgrades. Future investments must consider dynamic system changes, security, capacity, life-cycle facility maintenance, technology innovations, and redundancy.

Just as the industry was recovering from the events of September 11, 2001, it was dealt another blow from the impact of surging oil prices, volatile credit markets, and a lagging economy. In the face of recent FAA estimates that predict an annual 3% growth in air travel, the continuing delays in reauthorization of federal programs and updating of the outdated air traffic control system threaten the system’s ability to meet the needs of the American people and economy. To remain successful, the nation’s aviation systems need robust and flexible federal leadership, a strong commitment to airport infrastructure, and the rapid deployment of NextGen.

B.     Drinking water

Report Card for America’s Infrastructure
The nation’s drinking-water systems face staggering public investment needs over the next 20 years. Although America spends billions on infrastructure each year, drinking water systems face an annual shortfall of at least $11 billion in funding needed to replace aging facilities that are near the end of their useful life and to comply with existing and future federal water regulations. The shortfall does not account for any growth in the demand for drinking water over the next 20 years.[Tip: Fix that leak!
A faucet dripping just once per second will waste as much as 2,700 gallons of water per year. Fix any leaking faucets.]

[Image at left: Samples of contaminated tap water from Maywood, Calif.]

Of the nearly 53,000 community water systems, approximately 83% serve 3,300 or fewer people. These systems provide water to just 9% of the total U.S. population served by all community systems. In contrast, 8% of community water systems serve more than 10,000 people and provide water to 81% of the population served. Eighty-five percent (16,348) of nontransient, noncommunity water systems and 97% (83,351) of transient noncommunity water systems serve 500 or fewer people. These smaller systems face huge financial, technological, and managerial challenges in meeting a growing number of federal drinking-water regulations.

In 2002, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued The Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Gap Analysis, which identified potential funding gaps between projected needs and spending from 2000 through 2019. This analysis estimated a potential 20-year funding gap for drinking water capital expenditures as well as operations and maintenance, ranging from $45 billion to $263 billion, depending on spending levels. Capital needs alone were pegged at $161 billion.

Water Usage: 1950 and 2000
1950 2000 % change
Population (Millions) 93.4 242 159%
Usage (Billions of Gallons per Day) 14 43 207%
Per Capita Usage (Gal. / Person /   Day) 149 179 20%
SOURCE US EPA Clean Water and Drinking Water   Infrastructure Gap
Analysis Report, September 2002

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concluded in 2003 that “current funding from all levels of government and current revenues generated from ratepayers will not be sufficient to meet the nation’s future demand for water infrastructure.” The CBO estimated the nation’s needs for drinking water investments at between $10 billion and $20 billion over the next 20 years.

Drinking water systems provide a critical public health function and are essential to life, economic development, and growth. Disruptions in service can hinder disaster response and recovery efforts, expose the public to water-borne contaminants, and cause damage to roadways, structures, and other infrastructure, endangering lives and resulting in billions of dollars in losses.

The nation’s drinking-water systems are not highly resilient; present capabilities to prevent failure and properly maintain or reconstitute services are inadequate. Additionally, the lack of investment and the interdependence on the energy sector contribute to the lack of overall system resilience. These shortcomings are currently being addressed through the construction of dedicated emergency power generation at key drinking water utility facilities, increased connections with adjacent utilities for emergency supply, and the development of security and criticality criteria. Investment prioritization must take into consideration system vulnerabilities, interdependencies, improved efficiencies in water usage via market incentives, system robustness, redundancy, failure consequences, and ease and cost of recovery.

The nation’s drinking-water systems face staggering public investment needs over the next 20 years. Although America spends billions on infrastructure each year, drinking water systems face an annual shortfall of at least $11 billion in funding needed to replace aging facilities that are near the end of their useful life and to comply with existing and future federal water regulations. The shortfall does not account for any growth in the demand for drinking water over the next 20 years.

Design Life of Drinking Water Systems
Components Years of design life
Reservoirs and Dams 50–80
Treatment Plants—Concrete Structures 60–70
Treatment Plants—Mechanical and Electrical 15–25
Trunk Mains 65–95
Pumping Stations—Concrete Structures 60–70
Pumping Stations—Mechanical and Electrical 25
Distribution 60–95
SOURCE US EPA Clean Water and Drinking Water   Infrastructure Gap
Analysis Report, September 2002

Of the nearly 53,000 community water systems, approximately 83% serve 3,300 or fewer people. These smaller systems face huge financial, technological, and managerial challenges in meeting a growing number of federal drinking-water regulations.

In 2002, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued The Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Gap Analysis, which identified potential funding gaps between projected needs and spending from 2000 through 2019. This analysis estimated a potential 20-year funding gap for drinking water capital expenditures as well as operations and maintenance, ranging from $45 billion to $263 billion, depending on spending levels. Capital needs alone were pegged at $161 billion.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concluded in 2003 that “current funding from all levels of government and current revenues generated from ratepayers will not be sufficient to meet the nation’s future demand for water infrastructure.” The CBO estimated the nation’s needs for drinking water investments at between $10 billion and $20 billion over the next 20 years.

In 1996, Congress enacted the drinking-water state revolving loan fund (SRF) program. The program authorizes the EPA to award annual capitalization grants to states. States then use their grants (plus a 20% state match) to provide loans and other assistance to public water systems. Communities repay loans into the fund, thus replenishing the fund and making resources available for projects in other communities. Eligible projects include installation and replacement of treatment facilities, distribution systems, and some storage facilities. Projects to replace aging infrastructure are eligible if they are needed to maintain compliance or to further public health protection goals.
•  That Tap Water Is Legal but May Be Unhealthy
16 December 2009, New York Times, by Charles Duhigg
“The 35-year-old federal law regulating tap water is so out of date that the water Americans drink can pose what scientists say are serious health risks — and still be legal.

What’s in Your Water
Only 91 contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet more than 60,000 chemicals are used within the United States, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Government and independent scientists have scrutinized thousands of those chemicals in recent decades, and identified hundreds associated with a risk of cancer and other diseases at small concentrations in drinking water, according to an analysis of government records by The New York Times.

But not one chemical has been added to the list of those regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act since 2000. Other recent studies have found that even some chemicals regulated by that law pose risks at much smaller concentrations than previously known. However, many of the act’s standards for those chemicals have not been updated since the 1980s, and some remain essentially unchanged since the law was passed in 1974.

All told, more than 62 million Americans have been exposed since 2004 to drinking water that did not meet at least one commonly used government health guideline intended to help protect people from cancer or serious disease, according to an analysis by The Times of more than 19 million drinking-water test results from the District of Columbia and the 45 states that made data available.
In some cases, people have been exposed for years to water that did not meet those guidelines.
But because such guidelines were never incorporated into the Safe Drinking Water Act, the vast majority of that water never violated the law…”


C.  Levees

The state of the nation’s levees has a significant impact on public safety. Levees are man-made barriers (embankment, floodwall, structure) along a water course constructed for the primary purpose of providing hurricane, storm and flood protection. Levees are often part of complex systems that include not only levees and floodwalls, but also pumps, interior drainage systems, closures, penetrations, and transitions. Many levees are integral to economic development in the protected community.

Federal levee systems currently provide a six-to-one return on flood damages prevented compared to initial building cost. Despite this, baseline information has not been systematically gathered through inspections and post-flood performance observations and measurements to identify the most critical levee safety issues, quantify the true costs of levee safety, prioritize future funding, and provide data for risk-based assessments in an efficient or cost-effective manner.
[Image at right: Rising waters cresting levee along Mississippi River.]

There is no definitive record of how many levees there are in the U.S., nor is there an assessment of the current condition and performance of those levees. Recent surveys by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials and the Association of State Floodplain Managers found that only 10 states keep any listing of levees within their borders and only 23 states have an agency with some responsibility for levee safety. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that levees are found in approximately 22% of the nation’s 3,147 counties. Forty-three percent of the U.S. population lives in counties with levees. Many of those levees were designed decades ago to protect agricultural and rural areas, not the homes and businesses that are now located behind them.

In the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, Congress passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2007. The Act required the establishment and maintenance of an inventory of all federal levees, as well as those non-federal levees for which information is voluntarily provided by state and local government agencies. The inventory is intended to be a comprehensive, geospatial database that is shared between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the states.

While the USACE has begun the inventory of all federal levees, to date few states or local agencies have provided any formal information, leaving the inventory far from complete. In addition, there is still much to be determined about the condition and performance of the nation’s levees, both federal and nonfederal. As of February 2009, initial results from USACE’s inventory show that while more than half of all federally inspected levees do not have any deficiencies, 177, or about 9%, are expected to fail in a flood event. The inventory data collection process is ongoing and these preliminary findings are expected to change as the process continues.

WRDA 2007 also created a committee to develop for the first time recommendations for a national levee safety program. The National Committee on Levee Safety completed its work in January 2009 and the panel recommended that improvements in levee safety be addressed through comprehensive and consistent national leadership, new and sustained state levee safety programs, and an alignment of existing federal programs.

Damages from Flooding in Levee-Related Areas
Location/year Damages in Dollars
Midwest 1993 $272,872,070
North Dakota/Minnesota 1997 $152,039,604
Hurricane Katrina 2005 $16,467,524,782
Midwest 2008 $583,596,400
National Committee on   Levee Safety

Often, the risk of living behind levees is not well-known, and the likelihood of flooding is misunderstood. For this reason, little focus is placed on measures that the public can take to mitigate their risks. Though the 1% annual chance flood event (“100-year flood”) is believed by many to be an infrequent event, in reality there is at least a 26% chance that it will occur during the life of a 30-year mortgage. The likely impacts of climate change are expected to increase the intensity and frequency of coastal storms and thereby increase the chance of flooding.

During the past 50 years there has been tremendous development on lands protected by levees. Coupled with the fact that many levees have not been well maintained, this burgeoning growth has put people and infrastructure at risk—the perceived safety provided by levees has inadvertently increased flood risks by attracting development to the floodplain. Continued population growth and economic development behind levees is considered by many to be the dominant factor in the national flood risk equation, outpacing the effects of increased chance of flood occurrence and the degradation of levee condition. Unfortunately, lands protected by levees have not always been developed in a manner that recognizes the benefits of the rivers and manages the risk of flooding.

FEMA’s Flood Map Modernization Program, which remaps floodplains using modern technologies, is resulting in a reexamination of levees throughout the United States to determine if they can still be accredited. Before accrediting a levee, FEMA is requiring many communities to certify that their levees meet the 1% criteria.

Flood insurance is one of the most effective ways to limit financial damages in the case of flooding and speed recovery of flood damaged communities. Currently, many people who live behind levees do not believe that they need flood insurance, believing that they are protected by a levee structure. Requiring the purchase of mandatory flood insurance is intended to increase the understanding that living behind even well-engineered levees has some risk. This may encourage communities to build levees to exceed the 1% annual-chance protection standard that has mistakenly become a target minimum.

Levees serve to protect the public and critical infrastructure and to prevent flooding. With increasing development behind existing levees, the risk to public health and safety from failure has increased. To address the current lack of resilience in the nation’s levee system, DHS has included levees within the critical infrastructure protection program in an attempt to identify those levees that present the greatest risk to the nation. DHS has also funded research to increase the robustness of levees—for example, armoring the slopes to resist erosion should floodwaters exceed the design elevation—and technologies are currently under study to rapidly repair any breaches that may occur in a levee. To ensure system integrity, future investments must also focus on life-cycle maintenance, research, development of emergency action plans for levee-protected areas, and security.

Much is still unknown about the condition of the nation’s tens of thousands of miles of levees. The residual risk to life and property behind such structures cannot be ignored. Due to their impact on life and safety issues, and the significant consequences of failure, as well as the financial burden of falling property values behind levees that are not safe and are being decertified, the nation must not delay addressing levee issues.


D.  Rail

Freight Rail
The U.S. freight rail system is comprised of three classes of railroad companies based on annual operating revenues:
8 Class I freight railroad systems;
30 Class II regional or short-line railroads; and
320 Class III or local line-haul carriers.

Approximately 42% of all intercity freight in the United States travels via rail, including 70 percent of domestically manufactured automobiles and 70 percent of coal delivered to power plants.  As of 2006, Class I railroads owned and operated 140,249 miles of track. However, most traffic travels on approximately one-third of the total network, which totals 52,340 miles.

After years of shedding excess capacity, railroads have been increasing infrastructure investment and spending in recent years. In 2006, overall spending on rail infrastructure was $8 billion, a 21% increase from 2005. More specifically, spending on construction of new roadway and structures increased from $1.5 billion in 2005 to $1.9 billion in 2007. Increased spending on maintenance of railroad networks and systems has become necessary as investments are made in more costly signaling technology, heavier rail, and the improved substructure necessary to accommodate heavier trains.

Demand for freight transportation is projected to nearly double by 2035—from 19.3 billion tons in 2007 to 37.2 billion tons in 2035. If current market shares are maintained, railroads will be expected to handle an 88% increase in tonnage by 2035.However, as many look to rail as a more efficient and environmentally friendly freight shipper, rail’s market share could increase and lead to additional increases in freight rail tonnage.

An estimated $148 billion in improvements will be needed to accommodate the projected rail freight demand in 2035.Class I freight railroads’ share of this cost is estimated at $135 billion.Through productivity and efficiency gains, railroads hope to reduce the required investment from $148 billion to $121 billion over the period 2007 through 2035.

Passenger Rail
Amtrak, the nation’s only intercity passenger rail provider, carried 28.7 million riders in fiscal year 2008, an 11.1% increase from fiscal year 2007. Further, the 2007 ridership represented a 20% increase from the previous five years.  Corridor services linking major cities less than 500 miles apart, such as Milwaukee-Chicago, Sacramento-San Francisco-San Jose and the Northeast Corridor, are experiencing the fastest growth. 5

Increased ridership has led to increased revenue, and Amtrak received $1.355 billion in federal investment in fiscal year 2008. However, an additional $410 million in immediate capital needs have been identified, including acquiring new cars to add capacity. In addition, upgrades to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and improve overall conditions of the 481 stations in its network are estimated at $1.5 billion.

While electrical power in the Northeast Corridor cushioned some of the blow of increased fuel prices in 2008, it also represents a major infrastructure challenge for Amtrak. Upgrading the electrical system in the Northeast Corridor, parts of which were installed in the 1930s, is among the immediate needs identified. Failure of these critical systems could bring the entire line to a halt, which would impact not only Amtrak, but also the eight commuter railroads that share the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak anticipates reaching and exceeding capacity in the near future on some routes. For example, approximately half of trains traveling on one northeast regional line were 85% full and 62% were at least 75% full during one week in July 2008. Even though the current economic downturn has dampened growth, trains will soon reach capacity as the economy rebounds and the growth patterns of recent years are reestablished, and the fleet of cars and locomotives continues to age.

In the long term, the Passenger Rail Working Group (PRWG), which was formed as part of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, determined that an annual investment of $7.4 billion through 2016, totaling $66.3 billion, is needed to address the total capital cost of a proposed intercity rail network. It is further estimated that an additional $158.6 billion is needed between 2016 and 2030 and an additional $132.3 billion between 2031 and 2050 to achieve the ideal intercity network proposed by the PRWG.  These costs do not include the mandated safety upgrades for freight rail lines that carry both passenger as well as freight traffic and for those routes that carry toxic chemicals as required by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

While the investments set forth by the PRWG are significant, the benefits would be significant as well. The PRWG estimated a net fuel savings of nearly $4 billion per year by diverting passengers to rail if the proposed vision was adopted. In addition, the investments would reduce the need for even greater capacity investments in other modes.

Intercity passenger rail faces particular concerns not faced by other modes of transportation, such as the lack of a dedicated revenue source. Amtrak owns and/or operates 656 miles of track that are maintained and upgraded using funds from its general operating budget, impacting its ability to fund other projects. The annual congressional appropriations process has provided minimal funding in recent years, leading to a major backlog of deferred track maintenance on the track that Amtrak owns and operates, more than half of which is shared with commuter and freight railroads. For the remainder of its 21,095-mile network, Amtrak relies on freight rail lines that make maintenance and upgrade decisions on the basis of their own business models and shareholders’ interests while preserving Amtrak’s statutory rights for access. Freight and passenger rail interests are becoming more aligned as both require increases in rail network capacity, but successful alignment of interests will require both a public and private investment.

Because of its efficiency and reduced energy consumption, rail is an important component of the nation’s transportation network, supporting the economy through both commerce and tourism. But due to a lack of adequate investment, limited redundancy, intermodal constraints, and energy system interdependencies, the rail system is not resilient. Current rail security strategies are risk-based as determined by corridor assessments, corporate security reviews, intelligence analyses, and objectively measured risk metrics. To improve resilience, future investments must address life-cycle maintenance, rapid recovery, multihazard threats and vulnerabilities, and technological innovations.

Rail is increasingly seen as a way to alleviate growing freight and passenger congestion experienced by other modes of transportation. In addition, rail is a fuel efficient alternative for moving freight long distances.
Anticipated growth over the coming decades, as well as demographic shifts, will tax a rail system that is already reaching capacity in some critical bottlenecks. A substantial investment in rail infrastructure will maximize efficiencies and ultimately reap broad benefits for passengers, shippers, and the general public.

E.  Roads

 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure
Our nation’s economy and our quality of life require a highway and roadway system that provides a safe, reliable, efficient, and comfortable driving environment. Although highway fatalities and traffic-related injuries declined in 2007, the drop is most likely attributable to people driving less. Still, in 2007, 41,059 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes and 2,491,000 were injured.  Motor vehicle crashes cost the U.S. $230 billion per year–$819 for each resident in medical costs, lost productivity, travel delays, workplace costs, insurance costs, and legal costs. These findings are clearly unacceptable.

Next to safety, congestion has become the most critical challenge facing our highway system. Congestion continues to worsen to the point at which Americans spend 4.2 billion hours a year stuck in traffic at a cost of $78.2 billion a year in wasted time and fuel costs–$710 per motorist. The average daily percentage of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) under congested conditions rose from 25.9% in 1995 to 31.6% in 2004, congestion in large urban areas exceeding 40%. And as a result of increased congestion, total fuel wasted climbed from 1.7 billion gallons in 1995 to 2.9 billion gallons in 2005.

        Poor road conditions lead to excessive wear and tear on motor vehicles and can also lead to increased numbers of crashes and delays. According to the Federal Highway Administration, while the percentage of VMT occurring on roads classified as having “good” ride quality has steadily improved, the percentage of “acceptable” ride quality steadily declined from 86.6% in 1995 to 84.9% in 2004, with the lowest acceptable ride quality found among urbanized roads at 72.4%. 2 These figures represent a failure to achieve significant increases in good and acceptable ride quality, particularly in heavily trafficked urbanized areas.

Compounding the problem are steadily increasing demands on the system. From 1980-2005, while automobile VMT increased 94% and truck VMT increased 105%, highway lane-miles grew by only 3.5%. From 1994-2004, ton miles of freight moved by truck grew 33%.  The increase in freight traffic is of particular concern because of the increased dependency of commerce upon the efficiency of the roadways and the added wear and tear caused by trucks. Without adequate investment and attention, the negative trends will continue, as will the adverse consequences. It is clear that significant improvements and system maintenance will require significant investments.

The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission studied the impact of varying investment levels (medium and high) and produced the following ranges of average annual capital investment needs (in 2006 dollars):

  • $130 billion-$240 billion for the 15 year period 2005-2020;
  • $133 billion-$250 billion for the 30 year period 2005-2035;
  • $146 billion-$276 billion for the 50 year period 2005-2055.

The lower end of the ranges reflect the estimated costs of maintaining key conditions and performance measures at current levels, (the status quo), while the higher end ranges would allow for an aggressive expansion of the highway system, which would provide improved conditions and performance in light of increasing travel demand.  Even at the lower range of estimates, an enormous gap exists between the current level of capital investment and the investment needed to improve the nation’s highways and roads.

The Interstate Highway System was constructed as part of the nation’s strategic homeland defense, illustrating the important role of transportation in mitigation, defense and recovery.

Top 10 Most Congested Cities in the U.S.
Rank City Hours of Delay per traveler
1 Los Angeles/Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA 72
2 San Francisco-Oakland, CA 60
3 Washington, DC-VA-MD 60
4 Atlanta, GA 60
5 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 58
6 Houston, TX 56
7 Detroit, MI 54
8 Miami, FL 50
9 Phoenix, AZ 48
10 Chicago, IL-IN 46
Urban   Mobility Report: Texas Transportation Institute, 2007

The ability of our transportation system to withstand threats from hazards of all types, both natural and human-caused, and to restore service promptly following such events, is known as resilience. Resilience includes a variety of such interconnected aspects as structural robustness, system redundancy, security posture, emergency response capabilities, recovery measures, business continuity alternatives, long-term mitigation strategies, cross-sector interdependencies, regional impacts, and supply chain disruptions.

Building disaster-resistant roads and highways reduces hazard mitigation costs, limits exposure, and maintains operational continuity. A multihazard approach utilizing next-generation codes, standards, and practices is necessary to minimize the extent of a disaster.

The challenges imposed by our highway infrastructure require a large increase in capital investment on the part of all levels of government and other sources as well. The failure to adequately invest in the nation’s highways and roads will lead to increased congestion and delays for motorists and the further deterioration of pavement conditions and will pose increased safety concerns. An overstressed infrastructure will also slow freight delivery, create unpredictability in supply chains, diminish the competitiveness of U.S. businesses, and increase the cost of consumer goods. There must also be a significant change in the way we manage the system, which should include the use of emerging technologies and innovative operational strategies.

While acknowledging the need to move to a new, sustainable funding system in the long term, the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission has recommended an increase of 5-8 cents per gallon per year over the next 5 years to address the current projected shortfall.  Clearly, we cannot continue to rely upon gasoline and diesel taxes to generate the HTF revenues, especially when national policy demands a reduction in both our reliance upon foreign sources of energy and our nation’s carbon footprint. While in the short term an increase in the gas tax is clearly necessary, our national policy must move toward a system that more directly aligns fees that a user is charged with the benefits that the user derives.

F.  Wastewater

Crumbling U.S. Sewage System Undermines Public Health
20 Feb 2004, Environmemental news Service, By J.R. Pegg
WASHINGTON, DC, February 20, 2004 (ENS) – The United States has a million mile network of sewage collection pipes designed to carry some 50 trillion gallons of raw sewage daily to some 20,000 treatment plants. But parts of this complex and aging infrastructure are crumbling, environmentalists warn, posing a health risk to communities across the nation.

There is no shortage of communities that have already suffered adverse effects from the failure to regulate or upgrade sewage collection and treatment. Their situation is documented in a report issued Thursday by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).
•  “Swimming in Sewage” details how sewage pollution costs Americans billions of dollars every year in medical treatment, lost productivity and property damage.
•  “We have a looming public health crisis on our hands that will take billions of dollars to fix,” said Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC’s Clean Water Project.

In fact, it may cost even more.

A statement on the report by the Association of Metropolitan Sewage Agencies says the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accounting Office and the EPA all agree there is a national funding gap estimated to be as high as $1 trillion for water infrastructure. Some 87 percent of the more than 12,000 beach closures and advisories in 2002 were the result of high bacteria levels in the water.
[Photo at right: Water treatment facility.]
The report features seven case studies from around the country that illustrate how exposure to sewage pollution has killed or seriously injured people and harmed local economies. The case studies are from California, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Washington, DC.
•  The report cites figures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that found in 2001 there were 40,000 sanitary sewer overflows and 400,000 backups of raw sewage into basements.
•  The EPA estimates that 1.8 million to 3.5 million individuals get sick each year from swimming in waters contaminated by sanitary sewage overflows.
•  Many older municipalities, many in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions, have sewage collection systems designed to carry both sewage and stormwater runoff.
•  These systems are often overwhelmed with a mixture of untreated sewage and stormwater, and the EPA estimates that some 1.3 trillion gallons of raw sewage are dumped each year by these combined sewer overflows.

A large part of the problem is one of aging infrastructure, some pipes still in use are almost 200 years old, although the average age of collection system components is about 33 years.

Federal officials predict that without substantial investment in the nation’s sewage infrastructure, by 2025 U.S. waters will again suffer from sewage related pollutant loadings as high as they were in the record year 1968.

Wastewater treatment is expensive and plant operators say federal funds are needed for vital upgrades to occur. But the greater problem is not one of engineering, Stoner says, it is the lack of political will to address and fund solutions. Under the Bush administration, the political will to deal with sewage infrastructure problems is weaker than before he took office, according to the report.
[Image at left: New Mexico Environment Department, Emptying into the Rio Grande.]

The President’s 2005 budget request, for example, cuts some $500 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which provides grant money to state and tribal governments for development and upgrades of sewage treatment plants. This is the biggest cut in the Bush budget for any environmental program and Stoners says it will result in more beach closings, more contaminated shellfish beds, more polluted drinking water supplies, and more waterborne disease, which now sickens nearly eight million Americans every year.

“Waterborne disease outbreaks are on the rise across the country,” added Michele Merkel of the Environmental Integrity Project. “Most often, Americans get diarrhea, skin rashes or respiratory infections, but waterborne illness can threaten the lives of seniors, young children, cancer patients, and others with impaired immune systems. Now is the time to boost funding to protect Americans, not cut it.”

The administration has also shelved a Clinton era plan to require new controls aimed at preventing raw sewage discharges and has issued a new proposal to ease existing sewage treatment regulations.

The Bush proposal focuses on the practice of blending, which occurs when large volumes of wastewater, caused by heavy rainfall or snowmelt, exceed the capacity of secondary treatment units at a sewage treatment facility.

At most sewage treatment plants, incoming wastewater is treated by the primary units, which separate and remove solids. Then it is sent to secondary treatment units where the remaining solids are broken down by biological treatments, and most of the pathogenic organisms and other pollutants are removed.

The wastewater is then disinfected before it is discharged into waterways. But during heavy storms the capacity of the secondary treatment units is exceeded at many plants and the excess is diverted around these units, then later recombined or blended with the wastewater that has been treated by the secondary units. These blended flows are disinfected and discharged – the practice is allowed under the Clean Water Act only when there is no feasible alternative.

Under new Bush proposal, blending would be permitted regardless of feasible alternatives.  Upgrading sewage treatment plants to handle peak flows would cost billions of dollars, say industry officials, who call blending a “longstanding, sensible practice.”

In addition, EPA officials and industry representatives note that the blended waste must still meet discharge standards, but environmentalists say those standards do not cover viruses or parasites and believe the plan violates the Clean Water Act.

“Swimming in Sewage” cites a recent study that finds the risk of contracting the diarrheal illness giardiasis from untreated parasites in blended wastewater is a thousand times higher than from fully treated wastewater.

End of > (Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/Death by 1000 cuts/Modern living/Part V of V: Infrastructure Deterioration)

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Our Future, Part 4 of 4

(Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/Our Future, Part 4 of 4)

Section VII  considers reactions to the Energy Descent Scenarios

A.  Global and Local Perspectives
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/32/47/>
The scenarios as described are biased towards looking at the future for the billion or so relatively affluent persons who mostly live in the long industrialized nations mostly of Europe and North America but including Japan, Australia and New Zealand. For many people outside these countries the promise of benefits from global industrial culture are just that; promises. The general history tells of local and self reliant economies and communities decaying or collapsing as they are displaced by monetary economies, media and consumer ideologies. This is a process often associated with migration from rural to urban areas. The debate about the balance of benefits and disadvantages from these changes has been intense for thirty years.

Very few proponents or even critics of conventional economic development are yet considering energy descent scenarios, or the increased vulnerabilities to them which result from this loss of self reliance. Poor people crowded into barrios around super cities completely dependent on meager cash flows to maintain access to food and fuel are less able to provide for themselves when these systems fail. Five months in Latin America has given me cause to think deeply about these vulnerabilities that are already unfolding in many places where, compared to wages, fuel prices are ten times more than what they are in Australia.

It is not just the ability to cope with deprivation but more the pyscho-social capacity to accept life as it happens On the other hand one cannot experience life in many poorer countries without also considering how recent the changes have been. In many places people still know how to grow food and some cases can return to their home villages as soon as economic conditions suggest this will be more rewarding (even if it is only to labor on a relative’s farm) than hustling in the city for a dollar. Even when this is not possible, the sense of how resourceful and flexible people can be in what we might think extreme conditions, is a strength.

It is not just the ability to cope with deprivation but more the pyscho-social capacity to accept life as it happens without fixed expectation that lead to inevitable disappointment. While teaching a course in Mexico I was summarizing the energy descent scenarios session with reference to the house fire insurance analogy, that it was not necessary to believe your house would burn down to have fire insurance. The mostly middle class Mexicans laughed at my analogy because most Mexican homeowners don’t have fire insurance. It is this easy going acceptance of life that may be one of the characteristics that enables Mexicans to weather the storms that are surely coming.

In Australia many generations of steady growing affluence and high expectations have created a psychological and social brittleness.

On the other hand, in Australia and other long affluent countries, many generations of steady growing affluence and high expectations have created a psychological and social brittleness that suggests we may not weather the storms as well as we should. As a teenager I came to the conclusion that Australia was vulnerable to the attractions of fascism if and when social and economic conditions became much tougher. This early insight provided a foundation for the Brown Tech scenario.

In some nations, economic collapse and sustained conflict over the last few decades have simulated some aspects of energy descent. Most of the evidence is not good, with breakdown of law and order, food insecurity, falling life expectancy and mass migration. Russia, Argentina, Cuba, Zimbabwe and North Korea are examples of relatively affluent and industrialized countries that have experienced sustained conditions analogous to those possible from more general and global energy descent. An increasing amount of research and analysis within the Peak Oil network has focused on these countries to gain greater understanding of the hazards and opportunities of energy descent futures. Most notable is the Cuban experience that is remarkably positive and has provided a great boost to permaculture and other activists trying to show the opportunities from energy descent.


B.  Cuba: Brown Tech, Green Tech or Earth Steward?
During the crisis of the “Special Period” in the early 1990’s the power of strong central government did not weaken, let alone fail. In some ways the government lead by Fidel Castro represents many of the elements of the Brown Tech world. On the other hand Cuba is not a very large country and can be considered as one bioregion with Havana as its capital so the scale of governance is more akin to that proposed for the Green Tech scenario. Further, many of the strategies for coping with the crisis from urban agriculture to bicycle and public transport are emblematic of the Green Tech scenario. Health and education statistics for Cuba also rule out the more severe conditions associated with Earth Steward, let alone Lifeboat. However while in Cuba in 2007 I became aware of some aspects of the crisis that did give insight into likely conditions in the more extreme scenarios.

During two trips in the countryside I observed extensive growth of Marabou (a spiny leguminous shrub) over large areas that appeared to have been farmland. The rapid spread occurred during the crisis and today cover about 20% of the farmland.  These species were previously common in the landscape mostly as a component of living fences and hedges. When the crisis hit, supplies of grains to feed the industrialized dairy industry collapsed and many of the dairy cows died in the dry season.

My hypothesis is that prior to dying, the cows would have eaten the dry pastures to bare ground and the living fences to sticks. The seeds of the Marabou consumed by the cows pass through in manure so in the succeeding wet season a complete crop of thorn shrubs would have emerged and dominated the recovering pastures. Despite the desperate need for food, the absence of fuel to plow the land for crops or resow pastures, allowed the shrubs to take over the land. This example illustrates how valuable resources can lie idyll in the face of desperate need.

The process of recovering the land from the thicket forests is a slow one even with better economic conditions but it also has produced benefits that are slow to be recognized. Increased carbon sequestration has been substantial and plant diversity and wildlife is increasing as the shrub legumes mature. The soil rejuvenating characteristics of these spiny legume shrubs may be building an asset that will be more valuable to Cuba as global energy descent begins to impact. Two low energy pathways to more productive and sustainable use of the land are possible. One is to use goats to reclaim the land back to pasture. Alternatively, accelerated succession to mixed food forest by selective seeding and planting could create agroforestry systems that continue to increase the woody biomass and food production both from fruit and nuts.

It is significant that both of these changes would require further changes in Cuban eating habits. This is connected to another sobering impression in the otherwise quite positive picture, that Cubans remained reluctant to change their traditional food habits even during the crisis and mostly have gone back to those habits after the crisis. The fact that a diet with less meat and dairy and a greater diversity of tropical vegetables, fruits and nuts could be more easily and sustainably produced will require continued efforts on many fronts and/or a longer cycle of deprivation to shift the deeply entrenched European food culture heritage in this tropical country.

Perhaps more relevant to countries with less government controls over the economy, Argentina provides some interesting examples of revitalization of local economies as central currencies and economies broke down, although most of these stopped once the monetary economy was re-established.

One of the uncertainties that emerges from reflecting on these examples of economic contraction is how different the situation will be when the dominant economic powers experience these problems. While this will create some more general global conditions it will also dramatically reduce the capacity to project power through globalization. Consequently we can expect conditions in local bioregions and nations to increasingly reflect the local resources, economy and culture, and be less driven by remote and global forces. As always this will precipitate new threats but also opportunities.

The next section considers how these scenarios can be both depressing and empowering, and can help us direct our energy towards positive change effectively.


C.  Depressing and Positive Scenarios
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Another reaction to the scenarios by some participants on courses is that the Brown Tech scenario seems a depressing but realistic assessment of the situation in many affluent countries while the Green Tech scenario looks more utopian and unrealistic, but one that could be almost be “sold” as a desirable future by Green parties of western democracies.

The argument that the distributed power provided by resurgent rural economies will ameliorate the centralized and inequitable structures that lead to the Brown Tech world may be seen as a weak one, especially for people who are suspicious of the concept that fundamental energy and resources drive economic, social and political systems. Similarly the relative positive nature of Earth Steward compared with Lifeboat is partly predicated on the distributed rather than concentrated nature of resources and wealth (and of course the gift of a relatively benign climate).

We can better shape our responses to each of the scenarios if we recognize the constraining forces that are beyond our control.

It is possible to see some good and bad potentials, depending in part on our philosophical bent, in all four scenarios. Perhaps as an act of faith in human values and maturity, I believe we can better shape our responses to each of the scenarios if as individuals and as communities and nations we recognize the constraining forces that are beyond our control. We can then consider how basic human values and needs can be sustained without wasting resources on projects or objectives that may have little chance of altering the fundamental dynamics of our world.

Of course this reaction can be seen as negative, defeatist or even contributing to the realization of these undesirable scenarios. In the ad hoc internet community of Peak Oil activism that has sprung up the last few years, the divide between the “doomers” and the “optimists” has been a notable one. Since 2005 the worsening evidence on climate change has led to more of the experts in that field moving towards a “doomer” perspective on the climate front. Part of the process of moving beyond this simplistic and mostly counterproductive debate, is to see some of the positive potentials that exist in energy descent scenarios.

Permaculture activism has a long history of being informed by a negative view of the state of the world. But these perspectives drive an optimistic opportunity-based response.

Permaculture activism has a long history of being informed by a negative view of the state of the world. But these perspectives drive an optimistic opportunity-based response that can empower people to creative action and adaption in the face of adversity. The fact that permaculture activists privately and even publicly look forward to some aspects of these scenarios may be seen by some as naive or even immoral. On the other hand, an increasing number of people around the world find permaculture an empowering focus for ethical and practical action.

My recent experience from presenting the Energy Descent scenarios in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico and Argentina on permaculture courses as well as other gatherings of sustainability professionals, is that they can be very empowering, although I recognize the risk that they still pose, in triggering denial or depression and paralysis.

The next section considers how different regions look likely to tend towards different scenarios.


D.  Different Scenarios in Different Places
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Australia and New Zealand provide examples of two very similar affluent countries in the South Pacific that may already be on very different trajectories and that reflect the dynamics of these scenarios. As the previous Prime Minister John Howard, proclaimed, Australia is one of the new energy superpowers. This claim is supported by the fact that Australia is the largest global exporter of coal, one of the largest exporters of gas with the seventh largest reserves, and has the largest reserves of uranium as well as many other minerals.

Australia exhibits the essential conditions for the emergence of the Brown Tech scenario. On the other hand climate change modeling suggests Australia is perhaps the most vulnerable of OECD countries, a vulnerability highlighted by the recent and continuing drought. These are the essential conditions for the emergence of Brown Tech. The “debate” about nuclear power initiated by the Australian government and the rush to build desalination plants and super-pipelines to address the water crisis are emblematic of this trend. The change of federal government to the Labor Party is likely to further concentrate power at the federal level and could lead to a more rapid abandonment of free market capitalism, further entrenching the Brown Tech scenario.

New Zealand looks like a strong candidate for Green Tech. New Zealand on the other hand has very little in the way of minable energy and resources, but, relative to its population, has extremely rich biophysical resources to support agriculture, forestry and renewable energies. The local impacts of climate change are predicted to be much less severe, allowing New Zealand to take advantage of these distributed rural resources. This looks like a strong candidate for Green Tech.

Without going into a detailed analysis of the emerging trends in the Australian and New Zealand economies and politics, it is sufficient to say Australia and New Zealand have been diverging for some time. This suggests that these underlying differences between the energy and resource bases of these two countries may have been contributing to the emerging differences at the political and even the social levels.

The next section looks at how planning for these scenarios occurs at different scales.


E.  Stepped Energy Descent Pathways Linking the Scenarios
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As previously mentioned, energy descent may not be a continuous gradual process. Instead it could be characterized by an initial crisis that sets the conditions for a new order that is stable for some time before another crisis leads to further descent. The growth of energy and resultant technological complexity over the last two hundred years has involved varying rates of change, plateaus and even regressions during wars and depressions, but energy descent is likely to be much more variable than energy ascent. This is consistent with our common sense understanding that growth is a more consistent process than decline.

Natural ecosystems tend to maintain homeostasis under stress through the allocation of stored resources. If the conditions continue to deteriorate, then further stress can fracture the homeostasis. If the stress involves a reduction in energy availability, the system may collapse. But total collapse and system disintegration is rare, at least in the short term. More typically a re-stabilization at a lower level of energy processing and organizational complexity occurs. The new homeostasis will typically be stable for some time before declining energy availability precipitates another crisis. This may also be a model for how human societies respond to the crisis of resource and energy decline. It also makes sense that natural disasters, or a crisis such as war, rarely continue for very long but they shape the new state that emerges in their aftermath. If crisis does persist at an intense level for years then psychosocial systems reorganize around the crisis as the new normality.

The following conceptual graph shows these two pathways from Hubbert’s Peak of Oil (and net energy production). The discontinuities are periods of extreme crisis, conflict and/or breakdown. Each scenario represents a homeostasis that tends to be self-maintaining until further stress precipitates a further unraveling.


F.  Energy Descent Pathways
The red pathway is more extreme after continued growth leads to a precipitous drop through natural disasters, economic depression and/or war. Brown Tech emerges as the new world order allowing recovery and modest growth before further natural disasters/climate change and oil depletion precipitate another discontinuity leading to a Lifeboat world. The green pathway is less extreme with a lower peak and a gentler decline through the first discontinuity to the Green Tech scenario while the descent to Earth Steward is even more continuous driven by on-going depletion and decay of infrastructure from the Hubbert’s Peak and Green Tech worlds.

The chart also shows the relative levels of net energy availability per capita. This is much more speculative than the general concept of the stepwise descent or the relationships between the scenarios, because it depends on many variables. I’ve shown the Brown Tech and Lifeboat scenarios as processing more net energy per capita than the Green Tech and Earth Steward scenarios respectively. A range of factors contribute to this speculative maths, and hide some harsh realities. Depending on how net energy is understood and evaluated, a higher total energy base in Brown Tech may maintain greater organizational and technological complexity but Green Tech may be more energetically efficient at providing real human services.

A harsher discontinuity leading to Brown Tech may produce a higher death rate in the more urbanized populations while more severe controls on births may further reduce populations. The numbers of people the energy base needs to support strongly affects the per capita level so a higher per capita figure may reflect lower birth rates and/or higher death rates rather than a more energy rich society. Alternatively the lower death rate during the gentler discontinuity leading to Green Tech combined with a higher birth rate to tap the more distributed rural resources of the Green Tech world may result in overall higher populations. Although net energy per capita is lower, life may on average be better than in the Brown Tech scenario.

Similarly in the second discontinuity crisis, the death rate increases but more so in the red pathway to the Lifeboat. The lack of community capacity in the midst of massive material salvage opportunities, combine with the lower population, to deliver relatively high net energy per capita even though life is very harsh. The more abundant distributed renewable resources of the Earth Steward scenario leads to a higher birth rate (to tap those resources). Combined with the lower death rate, the higher overall population gives a very low net energy per capita. Efficient communitarian economies and a spiritual rather than material culture may make for higher wellbeing despite limited resources per person.


G.  Nested Scenarios
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Yet another way to consider these scenarios is as all emerging simultaneously one nested within the other. The following figure shows the scenarios nested with their associated organizational and energetic scale. This suggests that the four organizational levels represented by the scenarios from the household to the national will all be transformed as global systems weaken and contract but none will fail completely. In a sense this is implicit in each scenario in any case and resolves the difficulty in imagining the Earth Steward and Lifeboat scenarios with a complete absence of city and national level power structures even if their functions and influence are very weak or attenuated away from the centers of power.

In explaining this on the afore mentioned course in Mexico, I suggested that in the Earth Steward and Lifeboat scenarios there could still be a government in Mexico city issuing edicts, but that no one, outside the much reduced city, would hear or take any notice. Like the reaction to my insurance example, my Mexican students laughed and suggested that no one took any notice of the government in Mexico now. This humorous response actually reflects an ongoing process of fragmentation in Mexico where autonomous movements in some regions and drug lords in others already rival the central and state governments in the provision of security, extraction of taxes and provision of services.

It is natural for national governments and large corporations to implement the systems that characterize the Brown Tech scenario. The other reason for considering that aspects of all scenarios will simultaneously emerge in all regions is the structural commitment of each level of governance to systems that can work at their respective levels. It is natural for national governments and large corporations to implement the systems that characterize the Brown Tech scenario because these systems are commensurate with the organizational scale in which they work. Similarly it is natural for city and bioregional (state) governments to implement the somewhat more distributed, diverse and smaller scale systems of the Green Tech scenario. Middle sized business using regional resources and serving regional markets will naturally work to reinforce this scenario.

[Energy Descent Scenarios nested by scale of related system]

 Any planning for Lifeboats is mostly a private activity of people who lack total faith in the stability of our economy and society Following this logic we can see smaller forms of organization (small business and local government) could manage many of the strategies applicable to the Earth Steward scenario while the household or closed community is the natural level of organization to contemplate the Lifeboat scenario. This nested hierarchy of scenarios explains why any planning for Lifeboats is mostly a private activity of people who lack total faith in the stability of our economy and society. Similarly many community activists work towards strategies that level the playing field, develop communitarian cultures and would be potent in an Earth Steward world, just as earnest middle level managers and planners work towards the Green Tech world as the best progressive evolution from what we have. Many of the elite “movers and shakers”, often from long established wealthy families in affluent countries, who move between the upper levels of corporations, governments and global governance organizations, believe the Brown Tech world is the hard reality that must be worked with (although this can hardly be acknowledged publicly).

I think this is one of the most insightful and empowering ways to think about these scenarios because it helps us understand the apparent contradictions between different perspectives and motivations of different groups in society and even contradiction within our own thoughts and behaviors. For example, it is common for people to have private thoughts about the Lifeboats or perhaps Earth Steward futures, while most of people’s public behavior as workers and consumers reinforce Brown Tech or perhaps Green Tech. The private thoughts are often internally critiqued as anti-social or at least naïve, while the public actions are often internally critiqued as driven by powerful outside forces. This nested model can help us better integrate these different aspects of ourselves.

Section VIII – The assumptions of current mainstream sustainability
efforts and  their relevance within the four Energy Descent Scenarios.

A.  Relevance of Mainstream Sustainability to Energy Descent
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Mainstream approaches to sustainability tend to assume stability if not expansion in the energy flows available to humanity even if there are major transitions in the nature of the energy sources. Consequently, continuity of many of the structures underpinning current social and economic systems is assumed.

For example, modern affluent urban life in a society dominated by service economies may be transformed by revolutions in efficiency but will remain the norm for future sustainable society. Further, it is widely assumed that food production and management of biological resources to provide for human needs will remain a minor part of future economies, and that geopolitical stability will allow globalised trade and other global governance regimes to become increasingly effective as instruments to establish sustainable systems.

These are not so different from the business as usual assumptions about constant growth, but they require not only herculean efforts to build a new energy infrastructure before energy becomes too expensive and unreliable, but also massively reducing our greenhouse gas emissions today, if not yesterday.

There is also the small problem of reforming the monetary system away from dependence on perpetual growth without inducing financial collapse. I say “small problem” with irony of course because growth in economic activity is essential to support the debt based currency which is the very foundation of our money and banking system stretching back to the beginnings of capitalism and its economic precursors.

For these reasons I feel the Techno Stability long-term future has even less prospects than the default future of Techno explosion. Maybe this also helps explain the deep resistance and antagonism in the centers of political and economic power to questioning of the logic of growth. Whether it comes from an ecological or sociological perspective questioning economic growth threatens the very basis of our economic system. The lip service to environmental sustainability – so long as it can maintain essential growth – reflects this understanding.

Consequently more idealistic notions of steady state green economics are automatically rejected as throwing the “baby out with the bathwater”. While I have been as critical of the concept of continuous economic growth as most environmentalists and scientists, I also recognize that attempts to avoid the ecological precipice by reducing economic growth could bring down the whole system just as Gorbachev’s Glasnost contributed to the unraveling of the Soviet system. The economic hard liners could be right. There is no way to stop the train of global industrial capitalism (other than by crashing).

[Relevance of Mainstream Sustainability to Energy Descent Scenarios]

Despite these doubts about the logic behind many mainstream approaches to sustainability, they have contributed greatly in spreading new environmental thinking. For example the Natural Step concept64aims to protect biophysical systems by creating closed loop industrial manufacturing through continual improvements in performance. It has been very influential in Scandinavia and has been adopted by some of the more progressive manufacturing corporations. Rapidly rising costs of energy and commodities will reinforce many of the Natural Step strategies but these will also increase the costs of adopting some of the more elaborate environmental technologies that have been used to ensure no contamination of natural or human environments.

Natural Step might work to some degree in the Green Tech world but would seem futile in the Brown Tech, technically and organizationally impractical in the Earth Steward, and meaningless in the Lifeboat. The vast majority of sustainability concepts and strategies to reduce ecological footprint and greenhouse gas emissions could be similarly analyzed as having uncertain relevance at best to energy descent scenarios.

In general, fundamental principles will have more utility than specific strategies and technologies The following table quantifies my view that mainstream approaches to sustainability have quite low relevance to energy descent scenarios. Low scores do not mean that these ideas will completely disappear but that they will tend to shift from their current status as the innovative cutting edge of the economy to reflecting a past era – rather than their objective of becoming the norm within a sustainable society. The table also shows that in general, fundamental principles will have more utility than specific strategies and technologies that are currently being applied as good examples of these concepts.


B.  Examples of  Relevanced Principles

_1.  Renewable Energy Sources
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A good example of likely greater relevance of environmental principles when compared with specific strategies and technologies can be seen in relation to future energy sources. In fossil fuelled global industrial systems, energy supply has been generally concentrated in a few big powerful sources. A common principle in sustainability thinking is that a greater diversity of smaller and more distributed power sources will replace current fossil fuel, large hydro and nuclear sources.

The current roll out of wind power and to a lesser extent solar electric are technologies that illustrate this general principle and are widely recognized as central to the Techno Stability future. But energy descent may see growth in these particular energy sources slow or fail while older distributed sources such as wood and small scale hydro could grow rapidly. In a rapidly changing world appropriate design principles provide more guidance than specific strategies and technologies.

_2.  Biodiversity in Natural Resource Management
In the field of natural resource management the general principle of valuing biodiversity is likely to persist to some degree, at least in the Green Tech world, but the examples of vegetation management exclusively focused on local indigenous species, which are common today, will seem very dated as reflecting a world of rising wealth and constant climate.

Arguably, the principle of valuing biodiversity may even grow in strength as the current economic drivers favoring monoculture in agriculture and forestry weaken and are overtaken by viral forms of polyculture better able to use soil and water resources without inputs, and better able to serve mixed local markets. This process will allow the principle of valuing biodiversity to spread from the relative “cultural ghetto” of conservation management in affluent countries, to a more powerful expression of the permaculture version of the principle “Use and Value Diversity”. This very change may be experienced by those wedded to the current dominant views within the field of Conservation Biology as heresy to be resisted.

Energy descent demands that we consider more radical approaches to achieving environmental and social objectives.

[Relevance of Permaculture to Energy Descent Scenarios]

This is just one example of how energy descent scenarios will challenge some cherished beliefs within the environmental movement, while making others natural and obvious. Energy descent demands that we consider more radical approaches to achieving environmental and social objectives.

_3.  Permaculture Design Principles
Permaculture as an environmental design concept with a long and evolving lineage of action around the world provides one such framework for developing new and reinforcing existing strategies that should be adaptive in energy descent scenarios.

In Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, I explain the importance of design principles as the basis for generating new strategies and techniques in a world of change and uncertainty. The following table shows how permaculture, especially when it is understood through its design principles more so than currently applied strategies, has a closer fit with energy descent scenarios than many other sustainability concepts that have achieved more mainstream acceptance in affluent counties. While the numerical scores compared with those for “Mainstream Sustainability” can be taken with a grain of salt, the broad thrust is clear.

This table may reflect a claim of permaculture’s central relevance to energy descent, but it also suggests an equal challenge to permaculture educators, activists and designers to more effectively use design principles to identify strategies, techniques and working models that are tuned to emerging rather than past conditions.


_4.  Meta-scenarios of Permaculture
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Each scenario presents quite different opportunities and challenges including ethical dilemmas for permaculture and related environmental and social activists. The analysis of the relevance of permaculture to the energy descent scenarios makes it possible to imagine meta-scenarios of how permaculture and related activism might influence society in ways different from today. Clearly these meta-scenarios are even more speculative than the energy descent scenarios, but provide a stimulus, especially for young people, to imagine oneself in the
energy descent future.

I imagine that permaculture – by principle and model, if not in name – will become the dominant paradigm in the Earth Steward scenario. I imagine that permaculture – by principle and model, if not in name – will become the dominant paradigm in the Earth Steward scenario. Those with a long track record of achievement will become the natural leaders within new emergent power structures, primarily at the local level, that will be more effective than higher levels of governance and organization. The ethical and design challenges will be those associated with leadership and power. Because “power” at this (and all levels) will be very weak, it will be more characterized by inspiration and wise council than the capacity to make binding decisions. Transparent and collaborative leadership that draws from the whole community and accepts slow evolutionary change and avoids the imposition of ideology is likely to be most effective in conserving resources and continuing to build a nature based culture.

•  In Lifeboats the focus of permaculturists is on provision of basic needs first and maintenance of seed and skills. Permaculture is also highly relevant to survival in the Lifeboat scenario. The focus on provision of basic needs first and maintenance of seed and other genetic resources and skills to salvage and ‘make do’ will all be essential. Those with considerable knowledge, skills and ability to provide for others, as well as having good communication and organization skills in difficult conditions, are likely to become natural leaders of lifeboat households and communities. The ethical and design challenges are less those of broader and collaborative leadership and more those represented by having to decide who to let into the lifeboat without threatening the survival of those already on board. The ability to integrate and defend the group without sentimentality while providing for the community and maintaining knowledge critical to long-term cultural survival, is the task of those able to think beyond everyday survival.

•  In Green Tech, the dominant paradigm is still focused in the economic and technological domains rather than the ecological. In the Green Tech scenario “sustainability” has become the dominant paradigm of more localized city and bioregional governance structures. Permaculture and related concepts have high status and receive resources from government and businesses to help further develop local food production and community economies that can buffer against further energy and ecological crises. For the permaculture activist this is a more familiar condition where there is ongoing, even rapid growth in influence but where the dominant paradigm is still focused in the economic and technological domains rather than the ecological domain as the source of wealth and meaning.

The primary ethical dilemma is that of comfortable co-option by the new sustainability elites, in the context of their heroic successes in avoiding the worst impacts of energy descent. Should permaculture activists quietly accept the status and resources that flow from these sustainability elites and focus on the slow change of society through practical works or should they critique the new elite for not accepting that energy descent will precipitate further crises unless we localize and simplify our economies further? The ability to lead by example and provide clear and persuasive articulation of values and goals beyond the prevailing mainstream lead to progressively more influence as the ongoing realities of energy descent unfold.

•  In the Brown Tech scenario the challenges for permaculture activists are somewhat analogous to those working in some poorer countries today. In the Brown Tech scenario, permaculture remains marginal to the mainstream, although it provides hope and some solutions for the increasing numbers of disenfranchised and alienated who reject, or are rejected, by the systems controlled by powerful central governments. The challenges for permaculture activists are somewhat analogous to those working in some poorer countries today; trying to assist the disadvantaged with simple technologies and solutions while avoiding threats from repressive central power.

Too much structure, organization and prominence could see such activism ruthlessly crushed as a threat to the system. Anarchistic and invisible modes of activism are likely to be more effective. Of course there are also those attempting to use ethical and design principles to reform the system from within (with all the attendant contradictions). Quiet and persistent collaboration between these two levels of activism could see a graceful descent to Earth Stewardship while failure could lead to the Lifeboat as the last option for the salvage of civilization.


C.  Conclusion
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This exploration of energy descent scenarios has been an organic one which began with a didactic intention to highlight how large scale energetic and environmental factors shape history more than ideologies and the heroic actions of individuals. But my purpose was to empower those committed to ecological values and social justice to be effective in their quest to create the world we want, rather than just resist the world we don’t want. Finally it has become about telling a story that can help bring that world to life, an apparent contradiction to the premise I began with. Although the primary lesson about the large scale forces that control the course of history may be true for the long periods of stability, during periods of ecological and cultural chaos, small groups of people have been instrumental in those transitions.

In nature, disturbance events (such as fire, flood or drought) or eruptive disturbances from within an ecosystem, such as insect plagues or fungal disease, are often understood as examples of system dysfunction. Alternatively they can be understood as either initiating another succession cycle that brings renewed life or a novel force that deflects the ecosystem in different directions determined by the chance arrival of new species or other factors. The ecosystems that emerge from these periods of disturbance can be quite different from those that preceded them and these changes can be characterised from a systems ecology perspective as either degradation of biophysical resources and productivity, and/or ones involving new evolutionary pathways. The lesson from nature is that evolution of life works in strange ways that cannot be fully predicted.

The historian William Irwin Thompson’s67 interpretation of creation of the world’s “first university” by Pythagoras suggests similar processes at work when civilization finds itself in a cultural dead end or design cul de sac. Pythagoras had been an initiate of the Egyptian mystery schools that were part of a decaying theocracy in the 6th century BC. Pythagoras and his followers secularized some of the hidden and arcane knowledge but his school in Calabria was burnt to the ground in some local political dispute. Pythagoras died a broken man but his followers, the Pythagoreans fled to Greece where they found fertile social conditions for their ideas and values. This was the beginning of the flowering of classical Grecian culture that we recognize as the origins of western civilization. In a similar story Thompson describes how the penniless monks of Lindisfarne converted the British Isles to Christianity in the 6thcentury AD. They had no power but their spiritual message shaped to reflect the Celtic traditions, was transformative in a country in the aftermath of the collapse of the Roman empire and where no one any longer knew the function of Stonehenge. For a couple of generations a form of free anarchic Christianity provided spiritual meaning, but the monastery was burnt to the ground by the Vikings.

Like Pythagoras and the monks of Lindisfarne we live in a world of collapsing culture where we have to choose what is worthwhile at this great turning point in history. We are faced with the mixed pieces of the myriad of broken traditional cultures of the world and the novel and shining bits of unraveling industrial modernity. All of this will end in the dustbin of history. Our task is to choose which pieces of these jigsaw puzzles will be useful in creating an energy descent culture, the boundaries, features and colors of which, we can scarcely imagine. What is worth saving? What are the limits of our capacity? We have little time to decide and act. We must commit to concrete actions and projects. We must stake our claim, not for ourselves but for the future. In committing to our task we should remember the stories of Pythagoras and the monks of Lindisfarne. It is not the project but the living process that will be the measure of our actions.

Let us act as if we are part of nature’s striving for the next evolutionary way to creatively respond to the recurring cycles of energy ascent and descent that characterize human history and the more ancient history of Gaia, the living planet. Imagine that our descendants and our ancestors are watching us.

End of article: (Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/Our Future, Part 4 of 4)


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