John Michael Greer: Archdruid Report Essays
I am starting this thread to post links (and any commentary) to essays written by John Michael Greer over at the Archdruid Report. So much of his work is read by so many influential people. And I think his ideas are worth pondering.
I’ll start with the most recent. Well worth reading…
Hope In A Cold Season (December 28, 2011)
"Let’s imagine, to put the same logic in a different context, the plight of an unemployed single mother in today’s America during the holidays. She has, we’ll assume, barely enough money to pay the most basic expenses for herself and her children, and the clock is ticking on her unemployment benefits, which will run out after 99 weeks. Her desperate efforts to land any job at all have gone nowhere—that’s common enough these days—and it’s become plain, as the holidays draw near, that if she’s going to be able to afford to keep her children fed and clothed and housed into the new year, there aren’t going to be any Christmas presents.
"What does she say to the children? According to the logic offered by my commenter, she presumably ought to insist to them that Santa Claus will show up on Christmas Eve with a big sack full of presents for all. It’s certainly true that this will fill the children with love, joy, hope, and a sense of inner well-being, for the moment. It might even seem like a good idea, as long as you don’t think about what’s going to happen on Christmas morning, when eyes that had been sparkling with delight the night before look up tearfully from the bare floor to their mother’s face.
"I think most people recognize that the right thing to do instead in a situation of that kind is to tell the truth, or as much of it as the children are old enough to grasp, and do it early enough in the season that they can get past the inevitable misery and go to work making the best of things. Talk to people who grew up during the last Great Depression and you’ll hear stories of this kind over and over again—the holiday decorations pieced together from wrappers and scraps, the depressingly plain meal livened up with a few little touches or sheer make-believe, the little doll handmade from rags and burlap sacking that’s still treasured three quarters of a century later, and so on. If love, joy, hope, and authentic inner well-being are to be had in such a difficult situation, they’re going to come that way, not by way of making gaudy promises that are never going to be fulfilled."
Also, here’s a link to a thread discussing his book, The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age:
He’s a great guy and very well spoken. I feel he has a very good grasp on things to come and a practical way of rationalizing and preparing for them.
His lucid and calm pieces bring a tone to the discussion of 3E-related material that (outside of this place) is rare. Thanks for the reminder — I haven’t caught up w/his blog since October when I got busy with the move…
Viva — Sager
Again another thoughtful, insightful essay about the inevitable and what to do about it.
Waking Up, Walking Away (January 18. 2012)
“One after another, nearly every economic sector has undergone drastic reorganizations that slashed jobs, pay, and benefits for everyone below the middle class, and a growing number of people in the lower end of the middle class itself. Now that everyone below them has been thrown under the bus, the middle classes are discovering that it’s their turn next, as the classes above them scramble to maintain their own access to the payoffs of privilege. Having nodded and smiled while those further down the pyramid got shafted, the middle classes are in no position to mount an effective resistance now that they’re the ones being made redundant. I can almost hear a former midlevel manager in an unemployment line saying: ‘First they laid off the factory workers, but I said nothing, because I wasn’t a factory worker…’“
“Over the years to come, as the real economy of goods and services contracts in lockstep with the depletion of fossil fuels, the fight over what’s left of the benefits of a failing industrial system is likely to become far more brutal than it is today. In the long run, that’s a fight with no winners. The alternative is to walk away, now, while you still have the time and resources to do it at your own pace.“
Here are two of his posts that really made resonated with me:
It would be fun to have a beer (or glass of red wine) with him and pick his brain. Maybe CM could get an interview with him.
I agree with you about resonation. I haven’t had a chance to re-visit the first post you linked to, but the second, “What Peak Oil Looks Like” does resonate.
I don’t think most of us back in 2000 would have predicted that oil – trading in the $20s – would rise to average $100 per barrel today. And yet here we are today, and for the most part, life goes on – just more expensively.
Did you ever think you would be subjected to the kind of crap the TSA pulls on airline passengers on a daily basis? And yet millions are still flying. Snooki and the Kardashians engross the attention of millions like Pamela Anderson and the cast of Friends engrossed people then. Mos of us are like the frogs who have grown accustomed to the temperature. It’s not as comfortable as it once was, but it’s not so bad that we would jump out and risk the fire.
Ten years from now, I suspect the stock market will still be functioning, there will be useless celebrities to gawk over on the television, oil will be $200 per barrel, and Amazon.com and UPS , FedEx, and USPS will be delivering groceries on contract for the Fed in lieu of food stamp debit cards… and most of us will still be here on PeakProsperity.com in between watching Chris on his daily cable network show, The Martenson Report, replacing a debunked Jim Cramer’s time slot.
What Peak Oil Looks Like (December 7, 2011)
“A decade ago, those few of us who were paying attention to peak oil were pointing out that if the peak of global conventional petroleum production arrived before any meaningful steps were taken, the price of oil would rise to previously unimagined heights, crippling the global economy and pushing political systems across the industrial world into a rising spiral of dysfunction and internal conflict. With most grades of oil above $100 a barrel, economies around the world mired in a paper “recovery” worse than most recessions, and the United States and European Union both frozen in political stalemates between regional and cultural blocs with radically irreconcilable agendas, that prophecy has turned out to be pretty much square on the money, but you won’t hear many people mention that these days.
“The point that has to be grasped just now, it seems to me, is that this is what peak oil looks like. Get past the fantasies of sudden collapse on the one hand, and the fantasies of limitless progress on the other, and what you get is what we’re getting—a long ragged slope of rising energy prices, economic contraction, and political failure, punctuated with a crisis here, a local or regional catastrophe there, a war somewhere else—all against a backdrop of disintegrating infrastructure, declining living standards, decreasing access to health care and similar services, and the like, which of course has been happening here in the United States for some years already.“
Another interesting one from John Michael Greer, his latest:
The Myth Of The Machine (January 25, 2012)
“[We] Americans by and large accept an extraordinary degree of dependence on a machine – the automobile – in order to invest that machine with the feelings and dreams that cluster around the concept of freedom. We accept an extraordinary degree of dependence on another machine – the television – in order to give that machine the emotional charge that other societies give to participation in collective meanings and activities. Sort through any of the narratives that play a central role in contemporary American culture, and you’ll find a machine at the center of each one. Thus it’s absolutely predictable that when Americans try to think about finding some way out from between the narrowing walls closing in on our future, nearly everything they come up has some kind of machine at its heart. A solar panel, a wind turbine, an electric car, a thorium reactor, a supercomputer, a flying saucer or a nuclear bomb, take your pick, but it’s got to be based on a machine.“
Speculative science fiction….
What would a post peak oil world look like in the year 2050, 2100, and 2150?
In a reply to someone’s comment, he wrote: “I thought a lot of people were missing the point… The future we face isn’t business as usual with a coat of green spraypaint, or a hitching post for utopian fantasies, or some satisfyingly dramatic catastrophe that punishes the people we like to blame for our problems. It’s the decline and fall of a civilization the way this process actually happens: slow and messy, as real history always is.
“Mind you, I’m not silly enough to claim that this fictional narrative is what the future actually holds. My point is that this is the kind of future we can expect: a future in which the same sort of political, economic, and social crises we’ve experienced in the last two centuries keep happening, against the backdrop of contracting energy supplies and slow but massive climate change.”
John Michael Greer takes his crystal ball and looks into the future. Warning: This future is very bleak.
Christmas Eve 2050 (November 15, 2006)
“Human beings make sense of their lives by telling stories, and the tools of narrative fiction have enormous value for putting facts in context – especially when the context is as unfamiliar as the aftermath of peak oil will be to most people in the industrial world. With this excuse, if any is needed, I’ve sketched out the first of three glimpses of what life might be like for an average American family in the deindustrial future. This one’s set in 2050, about 40 years postpeak, during a respite from one of the first waves of catabolic collapse.“
Solstice 2100 (November 29, 2006)
“My second attempt to use the tools of narrative fiction to explore the deindustrial future, this story is set half a century after ‘Christmas Eve 2050.’ Once again the subject is an American family’s experience in a world after peak oil. Between the two narratives, several more cycles of catabolic collapse, involving civil war, epidemic disease, and the onset of severe climate change, have transformed the physical and cultural landscape, with more changes in sight.“
Nawida 2150 (December 13, 2006)
“This is my third and (for now) last exploration of a deindustrial future using the tools of narrative fiction. Fifty more years have passed since ‘Solstice 2100.’ Massive climate change, including the melting of the Antarctic ice cap, and the final stages of catabolic collapse have transformed the setting almost beyond recognition. In the aftermath of these changes, new cultural forms are evolving to replace the last fragments of industrial civilization.“
Honestly, such a future timeline is a little scary. At the same time, there are a few glimmers of hope at the end.
And then Greer takes it a step further. He “interviews” the main character in each scene to get some backstory. The tone doesn’t quite match the people, but then again, it’s just fantasy:
Christmas Eve 2050: Q&A (November 22, 2006)
“I make N$250 an hour, like all the office staff. Flat tax is 30%, so for a fifty-hour week I take home N$8750. Joe’s on the factory floor so he makes less, even though he’s a foreman. The two of us make a bit over N$16,000 a week. That’s all in new dollars, of course, so figure $320,000,000 in old money.“
Solstice 2100: Q & A (December 7, 2006)
“…Sophie Mendoza has a ten million old-dollar bill from back before the Persian war, Earth Mother bless her, but of course it’s not worth a penny now. I think some of the new governments printed bills back a few years, but nobody would take them. These days, people want money that has more than promises behind it.“
Nawida 2150: Q&A (December 20, 2006)
“Money? Very little; there’s not much of that in circulation these days. I have one student whose family pays me in money—they’re in trade, so it’s convenient for them. The rest pay in barter or rice chits – those are markers good for a fraction of next year’s rice crop. Most local trade uses one or the other. Still, you can’t buy foreign goods with them, and even if I sold everything I got I couldn’t keep myself in poppy resin for more than a little while.“
Yesterday’s posting was another win from John Michael Greer.
The Structure Of Empires (February 22, 2012)
“Empires, as last week’s post noted, have been around for a long time. The evidence of history suggests that they show up fairly promptly once agriculture becomes stable and sophisticated enough to support urban centers, and go away only when urban life also breaks down. Anyone interested in tracking the rise and fall of empires thus has anything up to five thousand years of fairly detailed information from the Old World, and well over three thousand years from the New—plenty of data, one would think, for a coherent picture to emerge.“
Makes me realize how fortunate I am to live in an empire, rather than in a subject nation or enemy nation.
So, what place would be an emerging new empire? Or, even better, some current, relatively prosperous ally that would be of no interest and too difficult for any current or emerging empire to bother with? Norway or Switzerland?
This will be a good series