How Bad will it Get and What Should we do About It?

8 posts / 0 new
Last post
JohnV's picture
JohnV
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 2 2009
Posts: 11
How Bad will it Get and What Should we do About It?

I discovered the Crash Course last week via the Post Carbon Institute so this is my first post.  Among other things I author the Sustainable Home Blog and have been writing about many of the same issues covered in the course over the last two years.  Lately I have come think of the coming crash in the context of human carrying capacity and as a result my starting case is “the next 20 years will be very different from the last” and my likely case is much worse.  If your interested in some of my thoughts on human carrying capacity and how they might relate to the course you can find them here and here.

Once you accept the probably of a crash then the twin questions of what the future might look like and what I should do about it can become an obsession.  The majority of posts on this forum are about one or both, so I'll attempt to add to the discourse.

Regarding the question of “what's in store for the future” we can draw on a combination of recent history, works of fiction, an our own vidid imaginations.  The collapse of the Soviet Union gives us two visions of our own future.  In Cuba the collapse caused what was essentially a “peak oil” event.  To learn how the Cuban's survived and lost an average of 30 lbs per person go here.  In Russia, the collapse was more of an “end of money” event and we have the entertaining and thoughtful writings of Dmitry Orlov (Five Stages of Collapse) to draw a parallel between the Russia experience and what he sees as America's future.  From the world of fiction we have the World Made by Hand, a novel about the end of oil and the collapse of the modern world by Howard Kunstler.  My own imagination runs the gamut between a very painful, but successful 20 year transition to a renewable energy economy and a new relationship with the earth akin to Joanna Macy's The Great Turning to a more dramatic and violent kind of carrying capacity collapse that leaves us with only a remnant of the current world's population.

Either end of the spectrum of possible outcomes leaves us with some very difficult choices.  From my focus on housing, dwelling in America will be either a matter of preparing to weather prolonged breakdowns in our power, water, trash, supermarket, and sewage infrastructure or learning how to live with a complete collapse of that infrastructure.  To that end, I spent nearly two years writing a book outlining homeowner strategies for dwelling in the coming post peak world.

Money and trade is another matter.  I navigated the economic meltdown fairly well by investing in gold, shorting the financial sector, and betting against the carry trade, but I'm not at all sure what will work going forward.  I'm fairly certain that the dollar will lose considerable value, and will eventually lose it's status as the world's reserve currency.  There is even a reasonable chance that the U.S. will default on it's sovereign debt.  Holding other currencies may be good hedge, but in the event of a default, I'm not sure any fiat currency would be worth holding.  I agree that investing in gold and silver ETF's are good hedges, but if things go very badly you'll want to holding the actual stuff. 

If things do go very badly, then precious metals will become a medium of exchange, but bartering may become the dominant means of trade.  At that point we may find that a laying hen, a cow, a needed skill, a bar of soap, or a roll of toilet paper has more intrinsic value than an ounce of gold or silver.

John Van Doren

The Sustainable Home blog

Dogs_In_A_Pile's picture
Dogs_In_A_Pile
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 4 2009
Posts: 2606
Re: How Bad will it Get and What Should we do About It?

jvd -

Welcome to the site.  Look forward to reading through your blog - first pass through looked very interesting.

Here is a link to another thread on the site that addresses some of the questions you raise - http://www.peakprosperity.com/forum/what-do-you-think-will-be-minimum-will-happen-when-tshtf/15492

mpelchat's picture
mpelchat
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 10 2008
Posts: 214
Re: How Bad will it Get and What Should we do About It?

John,

You are not alone, many of us are in the same boat.  Many have looked at home gardening and there is a very informative thread on that named:

The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Many have had discussions about fire arms. There is a thread here as well named:

The Definitive Firearms Thread

There are also threads on canning, survival and many other helpful items.

I suggest getting what information you can, than figure out a plan or several plans depending on what you feel will be yoru worst case senerio.  Than get your plan underway.

 

cmartenson's picture
cmartenson
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 7 2007
Posts: 5568
Re: How Bad will it Get and What Should we do About It?

John,

Good to see you here and thanks for the post and links.  I cleaned your post up some as the html tags "didn't take" for some reason.

I agree with your assessment of where the economy is and the dollar are likely headed. In a nutshell, the current size and future expectations of the economy were predicated upon an abundance of energy that simply won't be there going forward.

This does not mean "the end of the world", but it does mean the end of "the ways things were".

There is simply no way for the current load of debt to be serviced let alone repaid and I fail to appreciate how transferring that debt load from private to public hands does anything but enrich a few at the expense of the many.  Hence, we simply have to adjust out outlooks to include the distinct probability that a decline in our standards of living is in the cards.

Naturally, such a sweeping indictment of our system raises an uncomfortably large number of demands on our attention and energy.

The best we can do is take them as they come, and do so with the best possible attitude we can bring to the game.

Best,
Chris

jhelge's picture
jhelge
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 7 2009
Posts: 43
Re: How Bad will it Get and What Should we do About It?

Welcome John,

How bad will things get? That's a great question. I would like to analyze the premise a little, however. Though I do not question things will be difficult in the future, I do not believe the collapse of what we perceive to be the best of all living situations as an intrinsically bad thing. I imagine that people will become intimately tied to one another in ways we have forgotten. I often wonder what effect that has had on the psyche of our society. All of a sudden, people will find themselves surrounded by others they do not know; people they never even saw as such before. Together they will weep in sadness and cry for joy. Previously strangers, many will find a humanity within themselves which collected dust since childhood. 

I found Kunstler's World Made by Hand to be informative. While filled with cruel and tragic events, which I feel our future will have its share of, even mundane events of everyday life seemed to eminate a kind of honesty. This dynamic is much more in tune with historic humanity than that of modern times. It is what we are made for (some would argue evolved for). I have faith that people will thrive in new ways of living, ways more attuned to what we are.

Certainly, there will be people unable to cope. A majority people in our time are accustomed to living better than the most Caligulan empirors in history. Many of these people are well armed. Conflicts will arise. Services will be discontinued. Those without the capacity or desire for reason will tend toward violence or passivity. The government will tend toward tyranny or impotence. I think it will pay dividends to stay out of the way in such periods of turbulence.

Precious metals are good to have. I agree that they have little intrinsic value (although ionized silver is an excellent antibiotic). Even if useful, you will not likely buy groceries with gold unless your really desperate. It would be like bringing a hundred note to a farmers market. I can think of several commodities which make better trade currencies than PMs. Cigarettes come to mind. Ammo too. 

ccpetersmd's picture
ccpetersmd
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 12 2008
Posts: 799
Re: How Bad will it Get and What Should we do About It?

John, welcome to the site! It is nice to see an architect here (I don't recall noting any previously). My father is a retired architect, and I started off in architecture before meandering over to medicine. I'm in the process of designing a home we have been thinking of building (not yet sure if we will). I think I'll take a gander at your book, which looks interesting.  

Again, welcome!

ccpetersmd's picture
ccpetersmd
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 12 2008
Posts: 799
Re: How Bad will it Get and What Should we do About It?

John, a technical question, if you would. I tried to download the sample chapter of your e-book. A zip file quickly downloaded, but when I opened this file, instead of a pdf (which I could easily have opened), an exe file resulted, which is a Windows file. Is your e-book available to those of us who use Macs?

JohnV's picture
JohnV
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 2 2009
Posts: 11
Re: How Bad will it Get and What Should we do About It?

Thanks Christopher,

Email me at [email protected] and I'll send you a pdf suitable for your Mac.

John

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments