Archive for April, 2011

Bike trailers and square eggs

In Swedish / på svenska.

With all due respect to theoretical discussions, sometimes the concepts must go forth into sunlight and directly act upon reality. Our theoretical and philosophical concepts affect us much more, and at a deeper level, than we pretend, but they do so by working on the world we live in, of course.

Yesterday I let loose one physical manifestation of a complex of concepts – my bike trailer:

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John Michael Greer: On Catabolic Collapse

In Swedish / på svenska.

The following is a repost of John Michael Greer’s “On Catabolic Collapse” from The Archdruid Report on May 31, 2006. The text describes Greer’s central concept of “catabolic collapse” – a model for the fall of civilisations. The other concepts I’ve presented – the succession model and the short-term descent – fit into this overall pattern, but in different places. I plan to write reviews/recaps of “The Long Descent” and “The Ecotechnic Future” to provide a better picture of this pattern.

Those who’ve read “The Limits to Growth” – the 1972 report by the Club of Rome – or Joseph Tainter’s “The Collapse of Complex Societies” will recognise the basic idea behind catabolic collapse. “The Limits to Growth”, especially, is clearly a source of inspiration.

Those who haven’t read these two books but who may have read Oswald Spengler’s “The Decline of the West” or Arnold Toynbee’s “A Study of History” – I salute everyone who’s worked their way through the full ten volumes of the latter! – will find echoes of both. It’s interesting to compare these various descriptions and theories and contemplate how the spirit of the age is reflected in the model. Spengler in particular writes in a completely different mode, but he did after all write in interwar Germany.

This is another text from 2006 so the timings may seem off, but there’s nothing wrong with the argument itself. The sections dealing with house ownership are based on American realities and aren’t exactly applicable to Sweden, although the main idea is.

A couple of years ago I wrote an article titled “How Civilizations Fall: A Theory of Catabolic Collapse” — quite the cheerful topic, granted, but it’s relevant nowadays in more than an academic sense. I’ve never been able to find much common ground with the neoprimitivist types who insist that civilization is an awful idea and we all ought to go back to hunting and gathering, but there isn’t much encouragement to be had from the cheerleaders of perpetual progress, either. In ecological terms, civilization is quite a new thing, not much more than 10,000 years old at most, and like most new evolutionary gambits, it’s had its share of drastic ups and downs. Visit cities in Italy, China, or elsewhere that have been continuously inhabited for 2500 years and it’s clear that, in the right environmental conditions, the civilized way of life can sustain itself over the long term; visit the ruins of Ur of the Chaldees or the Mayan metropolis of Tikal and it’s equally clear that when environmental conditions don’t support it, civilization is a mayfly phenomenon that flits past and vanishes in a blink of ecological time.

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John Michael Greer: Briefing for the Descent

In Swedish / på svenska.

Since the blog’s currently considering “scenarios of doom” and imminent misery this text might fit in well…

When considering the succession model it’s possible to get the idea that Greer’s future is fairly comfortable, with one form of society emerging from another in an orderly fashion. The model is too broad to be of much use in the shorter perspective but Greer has, not unexpectedly, spent some time thinking about that too. What follows is a repost of Briefing for the Descent from The Archdruid Report on September 7, 2006. This text is several years old but it’s hasn’t aged too badly. Greer’s developed the theme in various directions, for example the Green Wizard scheme, but he still adheres to the basic principles expressed here.

This text wasn’t written in direct conjunction with the four previously published, but it can be viewed as an outline of the start of the transition from industrial society to scarcity industrialism, and as a suggestion of what life might be like in the world of scarcity industrialism.

As evidence piles up for the reality of peak oil, and more and more people start to grapple with an issue that challenges almost every assumption our society makes about the future, the issue of what to do about it becomes harder to avoid. Predictably, survivalists are popping up again with their one-size-fits-all answer. That answer first surfaced in the 1920s, when the Evangelical Christian belief in imminent apocalypse fused with traditional American rhetoric contrasting the rich, crowded, and wicked city with the poor, isolated, and allegedly more virtuous back country to create the first survivalist ideologies. Since then, survivalists have insisted that the only response to any crisis you care to imagine – epidemic disease, nuclear holocaust, race war, the advent of Antichrist, the meltdown of the world’s computer systems on January 1, 2000, and the list goes on – is to hole up in the woods with plenty of food and firearms, and live the frontier life while urban America crashes down in flames.

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Nicole Foss / Stoneleigh in Gothenburg

In Swedish / på svenska.

Last Monday I went to Ekocentrum in Gothenburg to listen to Nicole Foss, also known as Stoneleigh from The Automatic Earth blog. Interestingly, the lecture hall was packed (I heard people talking outside about being on the reserve list) with mostly young listeners. I sometimes wonder if I’m the only one reading all those obscure blogs so it was nice to see so many of like mind. If nice is the right word for the fact that “doomer” scenarios are in the air…

The lecture was very interesting, and my short summary of the message follows:

At the fundamental level, we’re facing an energy crisis – peak oil This will cause us problems since our economic growth has been built on increasing use of energy and, particularly during the last thirty years, has driven an enormous credit bubble. Such bubbles are basically pyramid schemes and they attract huge amounts of money since everyone thinks they’ll get rich. All goes well as long as there’s still money to feed into the pyramid scheme. When economic growth stops due to the fact the energy use can no longer increase the bubble pops. Everyone wants to bring home their “profit” and so, when it turns out that there just isn’t that much money, everyone gets frightened and panic spreads through the whole economy.

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