Wassail, traveler, and welcome to The Gable Grey -- a place of retreat, of renewal, and of resistance: a tree-shaded refuge in Dark Times. Now pass the threshold, and rest from journeys! For a cold wind is blowing; and here, if you wish, you may hear tidings of the world without...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

And Now, Something Rather Different

Despite what some may think, I'm an optimist.  Really!  I'm serious.  Reading my posts and the various appropriated works here at the Gable Grey, one might think me a 'gloom and doomer,' a Bard the Bowman, always predicting floods or plauges of locusts or harsh winters, or ravaging Dragons.  But down deep I have great hope for the future... though not the kind most of my countrymen would find comfortable.

These days one of my great tasks is to cut away the trappings of industrial civilization that have affixed themselves, leech-like, to me over the past four decades.  It is difficult.  The modern world grasps me in myriad, multitudinous ways, ways I never really understood, and to an extent still don't.  It is a daily struggle to reject the I-Phone, the Blu-Ray, the Prius, and endless other gadgets that adorn my fellow human beings/Borgs. 

I find it necessary when at home to turn off the fucking computer.  Just turn the goddamn thing off.  Otherwise I am checking the stock market, tracking the latest tropical weather system, checking email, checking my regular Collapse/Peak Oil/Chicken Little sites, or looking up and bidding on civilisation's detritus on Ebay.  So I have to force myself to just turn off the computer, and recall what it was like to measure time in the real world, versus the hologram.

Today, while my daughter (thankfully) napped, I turned off the computer, got my current William Morris project (The Wood Beyond the World, second reading), and went down into the sunroom to sit by the chicks.  (We have four Dominique pullets, doing splendidly.)  I sat there reading, or listening to their chirping, or peering out at our little wooded Angle.  It was a timeless few minutes, and I knew that others had done the same thing before me, for generations:  sitting with the farm animals, letting them get used to one's presence, listening to their sounds and getting to know them, too.  Such simple things give me tremendous satisfaction.

We have but to cast off the armor of civilization, and let ourselves confront and even embrace the seemingly dark and dangerous outside our comfort zones, to see how in our zeal to control our world, we ourselves become the controlled.  I will take the dark and dangerous, any day.  (Admittedly, one does not have to look very far in the current Age.) 


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Coming Dark Age

By Guy R McPherson

22 June, 2010

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. (Arthur Schopenhauer, one of my philosophical heroes)

Based on recent comments in this space, and also in my email in-box, I am compelled to provide an updated overview of my proposed agenda in light of the ongoing collapse of the world’s industrial economy. There’s nothing new here, but plenty of people don’t have the time to read what I’ve written in the past so, in spasms of foolish ignorance, they keep asking me to stop driving my car (trust me, I’d love to … and I go for weeks at a time without doing so) or cease speaking and writing about economic collapse because it is not happening (and, in a related issue, there’s an invisible man in the sky who loves us and wants us to be happy).

The other primary topic of conversation, real and virtual, begins with “Okay, but what can I do?” As if I’ve ignored that particular question. “No, but I mean me. Here in Phoenix. With no money and no spare time.”
Sigh. If you’re unwilling to change, you’ll simply have to let change happen to you. And Bill Clinton was correct about this issue: People like change in general, but not in particular. Nobody who is unwilling to change is liable to appreciate the change headed their way.

If you’re willing to change, perhaps you’ll seek ideas and inspiration from sources other than me. Perhaps you’ll test your courage, creativity, and compassion. You’re going to need those attributes soon enough anyway, so you might as well drag them out now.

I think the ongoing economic collapse is driven by declining energy supply at the world level: We passed the world peak of conventional crude oil in 2005. Considering the primacy of oil to the industrial economy and therefore to our way of living, it’s no surprise the industrial economy is unraveling. Fortunately, it’s taking disaster capitalism with it, albeit far too slowly to suit me.

My hope, of course, is completion of the economic collapse in time to save the remaining fragments of the world’s biological diversity and perhaps even habitat for our own species. Call me a dreamer. Recognizing that it’s generally a waste of time to try to convince people we’re headed for economic disaster and therefore environmental nirvana, that, regardless, is my mission.

I have no interest in trying to save civilization, which is irredeemable and omnicidal. But I am interested in extending the lives of the relatively few people in the industrialized world willing to make substantive changes in their lives. Sadly, that leaves out nearly everybody with whom I converse or correspond.

Conservation is irrelevant at this point and, with respect to materials that are too cheap to meter, conservation probably has always been irrelevant. That’s the crux of Jevons’ paradox. Although Jevons’ paradox assumes free markets, and all markets are manipulated, it is not at all clear to me that relaxing the free-market assumption would have a significant influence on the global outcome of energy markets. Furthermore, if you’re really a believer in free markets and lack of governmental interference in those markets, then oil is the premier example of a global free market.

Many people are concerned we’ll respond to Jevons’ paradox with hedonism. As if we’re not already there.
If you think individual conservation efforts scale up to society, consider an incomplete but still stunning overview of the statistics on energy use. For example, the energy in a million barrels of crude oil — the amount gushing in the Gulf of Mexico every ten days or so — will supply your house with power for the next 81,000 years or so but will keep cars on U.S. highways for about four hours. So, at some level we’re all BP (those of you cheering for the industrial economy have company from J.P. Morgan Chase on the BP issue — the spill and cleanup apparently will enhance GDP, at least in the short run). More pragmatically, though, we each bear about as much responsibility for BP’s incompetence and recklessness as we bear for causing planetary ice to melt, the financial success of Wal-Mart, and the microfauna in belly of the nearest polar bear. As much as the media and politicians would like you to feel responsible and guilty, you should feel neither.
I regularly promote the idea of hastening economic collapse. If you’re not on board with that idea, but you still see the huge neon signs pointing us in that direction, perhaps you can be convinced to pursue a modicum of self reliance.

The notion of self reliance, long discarded in a nation where we enslave others to do our drudgery, is about to make a profound comeback. When the new Dark Age gets under way, people who are willing to do useful things with their hands and minds will be welcome additions in any community. The contemporary idea of American-style independence is, in Orwellian fashion, the exact opposite of independence. To secure our food, water, and body temperature, we have become wholly dependent on a large-scale system (the industrial economy). This is the diametric opposite of self reliance, and it’s long past time to focus on self reliance within the context of the interdependence of people in communities. We need each other, but we do not need the industrial economy.

How do you provide service to your community? What preparations should you make to thrive during the post-carbon era, and to help your community thrive, too?

I have written at length about the preparations I’ve made, with a focus on water, food, body temperature, human community, and living a life of service (in this case, four out of five gets you the equivalent of a cake with no flour). Securing these elements has been done by humans for about two million years in the absence of the industrial economy. Only recently have we become dependent on a system that is making us crazy and killing us. I suggest we get out of this system. If that cannot be done in your specific location — and I’m thinking about places such as Tucson, Arizona, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Los Angeles, California — I strongly suggest changing locations. The other obvious alternative is to re-arrange the deck chairs as the cruise ship of empire takes on even more water. There are many approaches to be pursued on this front, including recycling, joining a CSA, riding the bus, and volunteering in the local literacy movement. These are noble causes, but they won’t save you or your community. And if you don’t save yourself, you won’t be able to help anybody else.

People often ask me how they can make the kinds of changes I’ve made, without actually making those changes themselves. That is, how can they turn their lives upside-down without actually changing a thing? They blame lack of finances (which, as I’ve pointed out with my own example, can be overcome by joining others in a community-based effort). They blame an unwillingness to leave the apex of empire, the large city they occupy (i.e., they do not agree with my view that industrial economy is inherently immoral). They blame the marauding hordes certain to find them if they get out of the city (i.e., they use any and every excuse to avoid taking action). Comfortable with the immorality of their lives, unwilling to forgo empire in exchange for the difficulty of self reliance, brainwashed by culture to keep pursuing this particular version of culture, they are hopelessly trapped in a hapless situation. Although I recognize the power of culture and the lack of free will for human animals, I’m beginning to lose sympathy.

Empires don’t break up, they break down. And American Empire is obviously breaking down, with abundant evidence to be found in the striking absence of any appeal to the common good from governments at any level. There has been no semblance of morality emanating from the fascists running the corporations, and therefore the country, since at least 1980. I don’t expect a vast outpouring of empathy and compassion any time soon. Faux compassion, of course. But the real deal? I hardly think so.

Although some insist a slow descent is likely, I have yet to understand how that can possibly work. Feel free to fill me in. Do we dim the lights one percent annually so that, in one hundred years, the electricity goes out without our noticing? Do we reduce our extraction of finite materials a few percent each year, even as the human population grows by more than 200,000 people daily, until we simply, peacefully, stop using everything needed to maintain the industrial economy? Do we slowly, painlessly, with no suffering at all, reduce the human population to a viable number? What is that number? A billion? Fewer?

All these outcomes seem quite unlikely to me. I think we’re so committed to unlimited, exponential growth on a finite planet that we’ll do whatever it takes to delude ourselves into believing that impossibility. If that means we have to destroy everybody and everything so we can have ice cream and cookies every night, that’s exactly what we’ll do. We’re an industrialized world of overfed clowns and we think others are laughing with us instead of at us. In short, I need somebody to show me another way. I’m eager to learn how we can prevent unimaginable suffering and catastrophic die-off on a finite planet. Sans miracles, of course.
Looking back, and relying on a plethora of economic metrics, it’s evident we’ve experienced a lost decade. So we can trace the economic decay to 2000 or so. It’s easy enough to can go back further, tracing the imperial decline to 1979 with the Carter doctrine. Or 1956 with the Interstate Highway System. Or the late 1940s with the federal government’s promotion of suburbia. Or 1789 with the unrelenting thirst for empire at all costs exhibited by the founding fathers. With respect to any of these temporal benchmarks, the decay clearly has accelerated in recent years and months.

From the day I predicted the new Dark Age would begin by the end of 2012, the criticism has been continuous. Most critics, citing no evidence and no understanding of peak oil and its economic consequences, claim we’ll surely adjust and adapt and generally demonstrate our big-brained brilliance with a long descent into peace, prosperity, and infinite good times. Adding balance in a mainstream media kind of way, the occasional critic optimistically — without recognizing the optimism — claims the Dark Age will begin well before 2012. We should be so lucky.

Guy R. McPherson, Professor Emeritus

University of Arizona
School of Natural Resources & the Environment and
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Biological Sciences East 325
Tucson, Arizona 85721

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"Near the Day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth across the sky."

-- Hopi prophecy

Friday, June 18, 2010

Roll Call

Red Wolf came, and Passenger Pigeon,
The Dodo Bird, all the gone or endangered
Came and crowded around in a circle,
The Bison, the Irish Elk, waited
Silent, the Great White Bear, fluid and strong
Sliding from the sea, streaming and creeping
In the gathering darkness, nose down,
Bowing to earth its tapered head,
Where the Black-footed Ferret, paws folded,
Stood in the center surveying the multitude
And spoke for us all:  "Dearly beloved," it said.
                                                  -- William Stafford

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday...

Sunday here at the Gable Grey, a day usually given over to relaxation and minor yard-work and various acts of Errantry on behalf of my long-suffering wife, and on again-off again consultations with the holo-oracle about the week ending, with a mind towards the one ahead.  From my vantage point among the trees here, things look bleak in the world without.

The last week ended very badly for Wall Street, with the DJA closing below the magic 10,000 mark for the first time in months.  This was due to a number of factors, of course, including a less than stellar jobs report, and some words from the Prime Minister of Hungary (!), who let slip the fact that his country -- a member of the EU, but not one that adopted the Euro -- most likely has at best only a slim chance of not defaulting on its national debt.  This had the effect of further pushing the Euro into Eu-rine territory.  Hungary can now be added to the growing list of PIIGS nations, which comprise Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain.  As one writer put it, throw the 'H' in there and you get PIGSHI.  (Watch out, Turkey.)

The Gulf of Goo continues its sorry story.  Mike Ruppert over at the From the Wilderness Blog wrote that he thinks the catastrophe could bring down the U.S. Government.  That may be a bit far-fetched, but I think it could change the political landscape of the Gulf states.  Case in point:  our own governor here, Haley Barbour, stated that the gusher has only been at worst a "minor inconvenience" to the State of Mississippi.  Sure, Haley.  We'll see how much of a minor inconvenience it will be for you in the next election.  (Who the hell am I kidding?  He'll win by a landslide, again.  Mississippi deserves nothing less.)

As is usual for me on Sundays, and on Monday mornings (while I wait for Kunstler to post his usual Monday morning essay), I wonder if this week will be, definitively, the End of the World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI).  Based off the events of last week, I would advise any and all Isaiahs out there to keep your ear to the ground, nose to the wind, and eyes on the skyline (all at the same time, of course).  Like as not it will only be yet another slow, grinding week in the slow collapse of western industrial civilization; but events could come to a head right quick. 

I've been feeling a lot like Viggo Mortensen's character in the film 'The Road,' who basically watches the Shit Hit the Fan, in increments, from inside his house.  (It's a great film adaptation of the cheery book by Cormac McCarthy.)  Like him, too, I am trying to adapt to a harsh reality; and like him, I have not given up to despair.  I will be ordering another book soon, Sacred Demise by Carolyn Baker.  Ruppert recommended it.  Like John Wesley, Rawles over at SurvivalBlog, Ruppert believes strongly in spiritual strength to help individuals get through this transition to post-industrial society; unlike the devoutly Christian JWR, however, Ruppert's journey, with the help of Baker's book, incorporates elements from many major beliefs, including Eastern philosophies and indigenous cultures, as well as Christianity.  This is more palatable to my near-atheist sensibilities, which have been wooed of late by the Druidic magic of John Michael Greer and my own pagan tendencies.  I look forward to Baker's book.  Maybe it will become a key guide in walking a sacred path up the Dark Mountain of un-civilization.  Or is it down?...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"You never know you are in prison unless you try the door."  -- Joe Bageant, Deer Hunting with Jesus
Whiles carried o'er the iron road,
We hurry by some fair abode;
The garden bright amidst the hay,
The yellow wain upon the way,
The dining men, the wind that sweeps
Light locks from off the sun-sweet heaps --
The gable grey, the hoary roof,
Here now -- and now so far aloof.
How sorely then we long to stay
And midst its sweetness wear the day,
And 'neath its changing shadows sit,
And feel ourselves a part of it.
Such rest, such stay, I strove to win
With these same leaves that lie herein.

-- William Morris, from
"The Roots of the Mountains"