Resilience is The New Black

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Yves here. One does not have to look hard to discern the troubling message of this post: that people are no longer motivated by appeals to broader, more abstract values, that what motivates them are more narrow, survival-oriented approaches.

While it’s always a bit dangerous to challenge someone on what he considers to be his his home turf, I wonder whether Dr. Nelson Lebo III’s abandonment of the notion of sustainability has less to do with that idea not being as motivating as he had hoped, versus the march from triumph to triumph of disposable products and planned obsolescence. It’s far more work than it used to be to buck that trend, and most people are ever more time stressed. But people also fall prey to conformity. Do you really need a new phone every two years? Or to churn your other devices as often as you do? People are horrified to see how antique my cell phone is, and I find their disapproval comical.

But Lebo’s reading is based on a sense that individuals are pulling in their focus to me, mine, and my family. It’s reminiscent of a conversation I had with a friend who is the ex-wife of a billionaire, now living modestly and teaching calculus as an adjunct at a local college. She said:

I can’t get concerned any more about tragedies. We have billions of people living on this planet who are going to die because it can’t support them. I used to care about people dying in Guatemala but now I think that saving lives now means more deaths later. I know it sounds selfish but I’ve decided to care about science and my family and not much else.

I wonder how widely her sort of thinking is shared.

By Raúl Ilargi Meijer, editor-in-chief of The Automatic Earth. Originally published at Automatic Earth

This is another essay from our friend Dr. Nelson Lebo III in New Zealand. Nelson is a certified expert in everything to do with resilience, especially how to build a home and a community designed to withstand disasters, be they natural or man-made, an earthquake or Baltimore. Aware that he may rub quite a few people the wrong way, he explains here why he has shifted from seeing what he does in the context of sustainability, to that of resilience. There’s something profoundly dark in that shift, but it’s not all bad.

Nelson Lebo III: Sustainability is so 2007. Those were the heady days before the Global Financial Crisis, before $2-plus/litre petrol here in New Zealand, before the failed Copenhagen Climate Summit, before the Christchurch earthquakes, before the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)…the list continues.

Since 2008, informed conversations on the economy, the environment, and energy have shifted from ‘sustainability’ to ‘resilience’. There are undoubtedly many reasons for this shift, but I’ll focus on just two: undeniable trends and a loss of faith. Let me explain.

Since 2008, most of the pre-existing trends in income inequality, extreme weather events and energy price volatility have ramped up. Sustainability is about halting and reversing these trends, but there is essentially no evidence of that type of progress, and in fact the data shows the opposite.

Plenty of quantitative data exists for the last seven years to document these accelerated trends, the most obvious is the continually widening gap between rich and poor everyone else. The second wave of commentary on the Baltimore riots (after the superficiality of the mainstream media) has been about the lack of economic activity and opportunity in many of the largely African-American neighbourhoods.

Tensions have been simmering for years (decades) and overzealous police activity appears to have been just been the spark. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has read The Spirit Level, or any similar research on the correlation between wealth inequality and social problems.

You can only push people so far before they crack. For residents of Baltimore’s disadvantaged neighbourhoods the inequities are obvious. People are not dumb. We can see the writing on the wall, and know for the most part that government on every level has not taken significant steps to embrace sustainability be it economic, environmental or social . To me it seems we are running on the fumes of debt on all three: over-extended financially on nearly all levels; over-extended on carbon emissions (and post oil peak); and a powder keg of social unrest waiting for a tipping point.

Which brings me to my second point: a loss of faith.

For most of my adult life I have banged the drum for sustainability. I don’t anymore. Sustainability is about voluntarily balancing three factors: human needs, environmental health, and economic viability. My observation is that it has been a failed movement and that the conversation has naturally shifted to resilience.

These observations do not come casually. I have worked full-time in the environmental/sustainability/resilience field for twenty-five years and I have a PhD in science and sustainability education.

Dennis Meadows, a well-known scientist who has been documenting unsustainable trends for over 40 years, puts it this way:

The problem that faces our societies is that we have developed industries and policies that were appropriate at a certain moment, but now start to reduce human welfare, like for example the oil and car industry. Their political and financial power is so great and they can prevent change. It is my expectation that they will succeed. This means that we are going to evolve through crisis, not through proactive change.

This is the same quote that Ilargi recently highlighted here at The Automatic Earth. Clearly it resonated with me.

This is not to say we cannot and should not be proactive. It is more about where we direct our ‘proactions.’ Being proactive about resilience means protecting one’s self, one’s family, and one’s community from the trends that make us vulnerable economically, socially and environmentally, as well as to sudden shocks to the system.

The recent earthquake in Nepal is another reminder of the critical importance of resilience. Before that it was Christchurch and Fukushima. In the wake of earthquakes we often hear about a lack of food and water in the effected area, along with disruptions to energy supplies in the wider region. In Nepal these have lead to significant social unrest.

Whether it is Kathmandu over the last month or New Orleans after Katrina, we know that we cannot count on “the government” for significant assistance in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters. Along the same lines, we cannot count on governments to protect us from unnatural disasters such as the TPP and TTIP.

Whether it is a potential earthquake or the next mega-storm and flood, the more prepared (ie, resilient) we are the better we will get through. Even rising energy prices and the probable effects of the TPP will siphon off money from our city and exacerbate social problems in our communities.

In most cases, the same strategies that contribute to resilience also contribute to a more ‘sustainable’ lifestyle. But where for most people sustainability is largely abstract and cerebral, resilience is more tangible. Perhaps that’s why more and more people are gravitating toward it.

Resilience is the new black.

A resilient home is one that protects its occupants’ health and wealth. From this perspective, the home would have adequate insulation, proper curtaining, Energy Star appliances, energy-efficient light bulbs, and an efficient heater. By investing in these things we are protecting our family’s health as well as future-proofing our power bills. Come what may, we are likely to weather the storm.

Beyond the above steps, a resilient household also collects rainwater, grows some of its own food, and has back-up systems for cooking and heating. When we did up an abandoned villa in Castlecliff, Whanganui, we included a 1,000 litre rain water tank, three independent heat sources, seven different ways to cook (ok, I got a little carried away), and a property brimming with fresh fruit and vege. These came on top of a warm, dry, home and a power bill of $27 per month. (We did it all for about half the cost of an average home in the city.)

A loss of power and water for two or three days would hardly be noticeable. A doubling of electricity or fresh vege prices would be a blip on the radar. During the record cold week in 2011 our home was heated for free by sunshine.

Sustainability may be warm and fuzzy, but resilience gets down to the brass tacks.

Above all else, I am deeply practical and conservative. The questions I ask are: does it work?; is it affordable?; can I fix it myself?; and, importantly, is it replicable? Over the last decade I have developed highly resilient properties in North America and New Zealand. All of these properties have been shared as examples of holistic, regenerative permaculture design and management. We have shared our experience locally using open-homes, workshops and property tours, as well as globally through the internet.

When the proverbial sh*t hits the fan, which all the trends tell us will happen, I know that I have done my best to help my family and community weather any storm be it a typhoon, an earthquake, rising energy prices, or the TPP.

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  1. Synoia

    What is possible for one family in New Zealand, a lightly populated country, may not be possible in a high density city, where the dwellers live in apartments, elsewhere.

    Extrapolating for a single data point, a scalar, introduces much possible error in drawing the vector. (Which is engineering speak for “bullshit”)

    1. jgordon

      The post wasn’t actually about a family in NZ proofing themselves against the impending population bottleneck of the human species, but rather the abandonment of a failed ideology (sustainability). So I’m not sure what you think is being extrapolated here.

      1. washunate

        a failed ideology

        But that’s the question. What is the warrant behind the claim that we need to shift from the positive framework of sustainability (let’s actively choose to make the world a better place) to the negative framework of resilience (we’re screwed because we can’t make the world a better place, so let’s figure out the best way to survive collapse).

        Doom and gloom could be an accurate assessment of our world. But most of what happens in our world is a choice of political economy, not a predetermined outcome.

        But the real kicker is that if sustainability is a failed ideology, then the concept of prepping (of resilience) is ridiculous. If we are truly in for such a collapse, there is nothing an individual family or even a whole neighborhood can do on any kind of meaningful scale. Luck, not preparation, will be the primary variable.

        1. Pelham

          Do you have any evidence to support your assertion that families acting individuall can’t do anything on a meaningful scale?

          You may be right. On the other hand, what other options are there? Sustainability — which requires collective action on a national scale — is out of the question. A joint Princeton/Northwestern study recently demonstrated that ordinary people over the past 30 years have had absolutely no influence and no representation in our federal government. Their opinions on about 1,800 issues were completely ignored every time they differed with the wishes of the upper 1%.

          Empirically, we now know that this is the state of play, and there is precisely zero evidence that anything at all is about to change at this level. In fact, it appears the very most malign forces of concentrated power are tightening their grip. So Lebo is right.

          Given this, perhaps we should be encouraging as many households and communities as possible to divorce themselves as much as possible from a global system that’s self-destructing. Perhaps none will survive long-term, as you say. But perhaps a few will, here and there. And that may be enough.

          1. jrs

            I think the community level is probably the right level. But like lots of things … laws may be easiest changed at the local level for instance, but then come things like the TPP to potentially make those local laws irrelevant.

            National politics is bought and sold so we turn to local politics. But their really one step ahead of us already.

          2. washunate

            I’ve been thinking about that second question. I’d say there aren’t other options. The honest options are to push for change or accept the consequences of inaction. Sustainability/reform/change must be introduced into our system of political economy, or it will cease to exist at some point.

            Ed said it well. The fact that large scale collective action is hard (or appears downright impossible at the moment) doesn’t render false hopes any less false. These material preparations depend upon larger society continuing to function, the exact opposite of a SHTF moment. Indeed, it is precisely when the future is still possibly bright that it makes sense to invest in physical places.

            But while I find an actual OMG SHTF scenario unlikely and unserved by these kinds of preparations, I don’t want to ignore your first question because exploring it helps understand why sustainability is so important. I think the reason the group would survive moreso than particular individuals is because it is our system itself that protects individuals from so much randomness. We have built up a rather large inventory of artificial supports for human life in our system (just look at the incredible decline in things like infant mortality), plus some other areas that require active monitoring and maintenance (think reactors and their spent fuel pools).

            The particular cause of the collapse would matter for concrete examples, but broad concepts like wars, dam failures, reactor meltdowns, infectious diseases, water born illnesses, toxic pollutants, child mortality, and so forth I think are good places to start. The kinds of things that would cause systemic collapse are exactly those kinds of things which are bigger than any one family or neighborhood.

        2. Ed

          In your last paragraph, you just ran up against the doomer paradox. The sort of collapse that doomers are talking about is just not something you can “prep” for. This is really just as bad as everything else in terms of giving people false hope that they can do something to avoid what increasingly seems to be the future.

          1. Dora

            A few groups of people may be personally better off than everyone else and this may be “enough”–enough for what? A scenario like this one has left “enough” behind a long time ago. A program for which this isn’t an ethical and political concern, *even if there is no solution*, is much worse than not enough.

      2. optimader

        Nor sure why sustainability and resilience are framed as being mutually exclusive? My parents, grandparents (I) call it frugalness. As well, sustainability does not have to necessarily require collective action on a national scale

        From the article
        Above all else, I am deeply practical and conservative I note the former being a huge missing component in much of society, and as well, how far have we drifted from conservativeness being a generally positive quality to being a toxic political brand epithet?

        I like washunate framing by popular perception of sustainability (positive) resilience (negative)–it does not need to be so.. Further to the latter, the distorted perception of the most enthusiastic preppers. Other than some logical practical contingencies, having som food/beverage bunkered at home I the pantry, they pretty much have a fantastical long view of their positioning in the scenario of an Animal Farm adversarial future.
        Case in point “go bags” should more accurately called “Um, Go Where Exactly Bags?”. And all the frikken bullets. What on earth are they going to do with all the frikken bullets? Imagine all the lead and copper that is just sitting in boxes across this country.

    2. jrs

      So high density city dwellers should: GO DIE!

      oh wait I really need to lay off the neoliberalism I think … My name is jrs and I’m a neoliberal …

      1. cwaltz

        There could potentially be some benefits to high density. The larger a population the more skill sets that would be readily available for a group to utilize.

        Rugged individualism long term is pretty exhausting, don’t underestimate the value of having people to have your back.

  2. sd

    Doing nothing is not an option. Small steps are better than no steps. Cities could encourage vertical community gardens, grow vegetables in medians, containers, roof tops, and vacant lots. Grey water systems could help keep public parks green. Urban areas should be encouraged to build safe bike paths, storage, and lock ups. Trains and light rail in the United States are way behind foreign counter parts. The car is not going to last forever, collapsing its dependence should happen sooner vs later.

    Doing nothing is just not an option.

    Meanwhile, unsustainable….

    1. Lil'D

      Of course doing nothing is an option.

      Not a good one, and it has consequences. But it’s always a choice and usually the one chosen by most.

  3. Clive

    We’ve just had the outcome of an election here in the UK which was determined along pretty much the same lines as Yves mentioned in her intro. Specifically, the concept of “economic competence” has in reality meant “people in the South East of England concerned about who has demonstrated they will above all else as a minimum put a floor under asset prices (and especially real estate) and better yet engineer a boom in asset prices for the assets they hold”. No chance whatsoever of a broader approach (sustainability, inclusivity, quality — or what is best overall for “the nation” vs. “the region” vs. “the local community” vs. “me / my family”) being given proper weighting or serious consideration.

    1. sd

      UK might want to look at the direction of Icelands Independence Party in the polls – at its current pace, the party will be dead come next election. I expect the UK is about to follow in their footsteps.

    2. Brooklin Bridge

      You may be on to something but, “a floor under asset prices” and “engineer a boom in asset prices” seems a little contradictory. Are you saying people are voting “conservative” by instinct or what? Certainly not by intelligence if they remain ignorant of the boom/bust cycle in spite of so many iterations over the last 80+ years.

      I’m also failing to understand the distinction Yves is drawing in her introduction. Is it (?),
      1) Lack of motivation for sustainability (Dr.Lebo III vs.)
      2) Difficulty in combating consumerism in all of it’s day to day and ideological forms.

      Assuming I’ve understood (a big assumption), couldn’t (2) be considered one of the various causes of or reasons for (1)? Other causes being listed (not exhaustively) by Dr. Lebo III. Also, how does Yves’ version play into a victory for conservatives in the UK vote?

      Regardless of the distinction, Yves question of how many people are like her friend (who would appear to be an example of Dr. Lebo III’s notion of resilience) is very apt. Is resilience as described in the article really that broad based a phenomenon?

      Many of us most likely know at least one person/family who is like Yves’ friend, I do, and as an aside I would argue there is a significant difference between such people and “survivalists” or “doomsday preparers.” Basically, people trying to get some control over their circumstances and simultaneously are exhausted/selfish about dealing with (or impossibility of dealing with) the increasing mess civilization is in. But be that as it may, I suspect the number of such people is rather small.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        BTW, I’m not sure it contradicts the author’s description of resilience, but at least in the few friends I have that either definitely do or might qualify, there is indeed an aspect of conservatism, of retraction and exclusion (I don’t want to know) and a sort of instinctual focus on “what’s safe” – though not so much in the political sense.

  4. James Levy

    I see here a false dichotomy: I do for myself or I do for others; I think about me and mine or I think about the human community in general. The author notes their own conservatism. Conservatives have always stressed the obligation to family and the lack of obligation to “outsiders.” Nothing new there.

    What I see most pointedly is the lack of an overall ethic. The old notion, “women and children first”, is not just quaint–it is a simple principle upon which actions can be based. What we need is such a simple principle (like “first to no harm”). And we’ve got to have the guts and the character to live by that principle. All else is mere fashion.

      1. hemeantwell

        Not sure what you intend by the reference to Silva’s book. True, what comes across strongly in her interviews is distrust of the political order, but her working class interviewees have have every reason to distrust it.
        Beyond that unsurprising finding, I’ve looked into her question protocol and, very unfortunately, she appears to offer her respondents little opportunity to reflect on their situation. By this I mean there’s little in the way of probing that might not just “challenge their values” but ask them to consider what it might take for things to be better, are there examples in their lives that might serve as a model, etc. It’s really a shame that researchers like Silva, although they may have generally good political intentions, end up making it appear as though subordinated groups and classes are capable only of reacting to their circumstances instead of at least peeking beyond them.

        1. Cassiodorus

          Well, my reading of Silva’s book identified ethnographic subjects who lived in a neoliberal social order, in which everyone (to quote Foucault) is an “entrepreneur of himself,” but in which some do not really have the resources to be “entrepreneurs” in a meaningful sense.

          1. Knute Rife

            This is now the philosophical basis of the entire US economy, except that if you fail as an “entrepreneur”, it’s because you’re stupid and lazy, not because the deck was stacked against you from the start. BTW, I was on the receiving end of a collection of ad hominems from a sod over at Eurotrib who could in no way accept the possibility the US is using the “entrepreneurization” of the work force to mask significant underreporting of unemployment and unemployment.

            1. John

              “Entrepreneurs” are everywhere these days.
              Most aren’t making any money or hardly any money.
              I keep wondering how they are paying the rent.

        2. hunkerdown

          By this I mean there’s little in the way of probing that might not just “challenge their values”

          At which point you’ve stopped doing research and started doing evangelism. Western mainstreamers seem to have trouble telling the difference and need that pointed out.

      2. Lil'D

        Politics correlates with the size of your tribe.

        You and your family => conservative

        bigger “tribes” => more left

    1. jgordon

      Could it be that your ironclad “first do no harm” rule has a lot of exceptions and caveats to it? I have noticed that people coincidentally believe whatever happens to be convenient for them. For example, if you are using a computer or phone (especially a fruit-themed device) it was likely assembled by slave labor in China. Of course “first do no harm” is a completely asinine thing to say when just about every thing we do in modern industrial societies incidentally harms someone or something somewhere. At least these guys living up in the hills of New Zealand have managed to minimize the amount of collateral harm they spread around just by being born into such a society. God what an offensively ignorant statement to make.

      1. James Levy

        OK, you know what’s offensive–you’re “I’m all right jack” cynical attitude towards anyone who wants to push for something beyond the self, falling back as you do on a narcissistic, self-referential “us” versus all those ignorant “thems” out there who might want to make a better future for all humans. And I didn’t posit “first do no harm” as the only, or even the primary, ethical position one might take, only that we have to have universal dictums of ethical behavior or we are no better than the neoliberal sociopaths all out for themselves.

        And I don’t own a smart phone.

        1. hunkerdown

          What makes those people’s actions problematic is not what they *want*, but the magical rituals they laughably call “doing”.

          versus all those ignorant “thems” out there who might want to make a better future for all humans.

          Well, they are ignorant, already. They’re ignorant of what all humans consider a better future, and one might suppose it’s intentionally so because proselytism is more compatible with authoritarianism than “an it harm none”. The very concept of “universal dicta of ethical behavior”, beyond a very lightweight point, demands a class of people whose ostensible social function is to inspire mimesis. AFAIC those people are a waste of food and, if they intend to live a lifestyle of effete mental onanism, they’d better be prepared to do it without my help.

          1. James Levy

            So then, other than indulging in the effete mental onanism you decry, what are you doing here? Or is posting here what some like yourself might laughably call “doing”?

        2. Jeremy Grimm

          I have no dog in this fight.

          I find tone here, this particular thread, unpleasant and unhelpful to establishing meaningful discussion.

  5. ogee

    I think the gist of this piece is exactly spot on.
    Every trend is in decline. Sustainability, is a “now you see it ,now you don’t ” trick. People can try to incorporate sustainable lifestyles into the fabric of their own lives, but in the natural world;it is always there,until it isn’t.
    a billion people on the planet, trying to do the right thing…. don’t count against a thousand immortal corporate actors whose “lives” require them to follow along the paths already defined. The world is already toast. Some better off people just can’t see that yet.
    Life has always gone on, under occupation. People eek out an existence, for good or ill. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Living in the moment, one can strive for their own “bliss”. As joe cambell put it ” to joyfully embrace the sorrows of the world”. Not to be a party to it, just to acknowledge there is no changing the masses around you, and to find your own peace for the time we have. As someone else said,” there is no eternal reward for wasting the dawn.”
    The tyranny of a coming Orwellian world, coupled with environmental necessities(like California’s drought and all that may cause if it keeps up, or fukushima radioactive leaks,or loss of clean drinking water from fracking ,etc.) compounded by overpopulation….along with the rise of world wide fascist/ corporatist control of people’s ability to earn a decent living…. will lead to a world where a sane person must live alongside the masses, but try not to be sucked into their “peachy keen” view of things getting better.
    “Heaven is spread over the earth, but the eyes of men do not see it.” This ancient parable is still true. IF you live with the OPINION that heaven is here on earth, you can enjoy it for the fleeting moments we all have.For hell is spread over the earth as well, and some people at certain times can’t help but feeling the flames.

    1. optimader

      The world is already toast
      Nah.. The future is rarely predicted accurately. World Toast and Orwellian control don’t necessarily even square well.
      World Toast implies societies going off the rails globally, chaos, presumably with a follow on dramatic reduction of population and compromised resource availability/infrastructure. An Orwellian World would require higher population densities/substantial resource availability/management-communication infrastructure to maintain the draconian status quo, wouldn’t it?

    2. RepubAnon

      I’ll go with the Laws of Thermodynamics – notably the First Law: Matter/Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only its form can be changed*. For Economics, this means that the models of endless growth violate the First Law of Thermodynamics. As nobody has created a perpetual motion machine, it seems likely that all the perpetual growth models in Economics will fail eventually. There’s only so much water on the planet, and of that, only a fraction is drinkable. Although the total amount of carbon stays the same, we’re burning it far faster than the plants can convert the resulting CO2 into cellulose through photosynthesis. It’s sort of like a family of trust fund kids spending the trust’s principal – the lifestyle changes radically once the reserves have been used up, and it will take many, many years to rebuild them (if ever).

      There are only so many easily-exploitable resources. People are beginning to understand this – which is why more people are moving from global sustainability to “I’m hoarding enough for me and mine” models.

      *The Frat Boy version of Thermodynamics is:
      1) You can’t win (Conservation of matter/energy)
      2) You can’t break even (Entropy increases in a closed system)
      3) You can’t get out of the game (The universe is a closed system)

  6. Steve H.

    There may be some confusion here over the difference between ‘sustainable’ and ‘conservation’ and ‘conservative.’

    The column links to another by Ilargi, which quotes Dennis Meadows in a way which may clarify things a bit:

    “Meadows makes a perhaps somewhat confusing distinction between universal and global problems, but it does work:

    You see, there are two kinds of big problems. One I call universal problems, the other I call global problems. They both affect everybody. The difference is: Universal problems can be solved by small groups of people because they don’t have to wait for others. You can clean up the air in Hanover without having to wait for Beijing or Mexico City to do the same.

    Global problems, however, cannot be solved in a single place. There’s no way Hanover can solve climate change or stop the spread of nuclear weapons. For that to happen, people in China, the US and Russia must also do something. But on the global problems, we will make no progress.”

    Please juxtapose this quote with Niebuhr:

    “God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

    People may disagree over whether a problem is global or universal, and whether one persons actions cannot or can cause a change to that problem. At the least, doing a local something is developing a skill of not doing nothing.

  7. Rww

    20-year olds care because every tragedy, every environmental sin, every act of war and oppression seems unprecedented. 70-year olds don’t because those things are known to be just the way of the world.

    The young think the old lead closed lives of self concern. The old think the young lead lives of inflated self importance. The cynics live in the transition

    After 70 years of war and death, why should the details of today’s matter to me? Because it is “important” to “care”? Hah! Nothing is more important than family and simple pleasures. And if everyone followed that path– if everyone was born old, say–we would have the better world that all good people everywhere want

    1. hunkerdown

      Well, don’t flatter yourself too much. If the world were born young, the dead weight of tradition would have to earn its keep, which would neatly solve the problem from the other end.

    2. jrs

      The old mostly think a change won’t be accomplished in their remaining lifespan anyway so who can care too much, the young think it can in their lifetime soon enough to matter for them.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Well, some of the old at least think it’s worth it to try to leave a better world behind them. Ben Franklin, IIRC, was no spring chicken. One of the reasons I detest generational politics so much is that it prevents people from making common cause. The young will be old quite soon enough, and faster than they think!

        1. John Zelnicker

          Thanks, Lambert, for you continuing criticism and rejection of generational politics. One of the attitudes that drives me crazy is the anger some people have for the Boomers. In particular, there is one regular commenter here at NC who has such an intense anger towards Boomers it makes me wonder if they had some kind of trauma early in life at the hands of a Boomer.

          We actually accomplished quite a lot in the realm of civil rights, the anti-war movement, increasing the awareness of Eastern wisdom traditions, and sexual liberation, although not all of those advances have been maintained in the face of the onslaught of neoliberalism. And there are many of us who still do what we can to make the world a better place for all. Arguments and dissension between the generations just plays into the divide and conquer efforts of the plutocracy.

          I believe Ben Franklin did some of his best work as an “old” man. His statement (paraphrased) that “We must all hang together or we will surely all hang separately.” is one of my favorite aphorisms.

          1. different clue

            The CFP MSM tricked that commenter and others like herm into confusing a “boomer” with a “yuppie”. The aging ex-coal miner with black lung disease is a “boomer” and the
            young upper class aggression warrior with that group The Can Kicks Back is a younger.
            But Mr. Old Coal Miner is not the Enemy whereas Miz The Can Kicks Back IS the Enemy.
            And that is what CFP MSM talk about “boomers” is designed to trick people out of seeing.

  8. Victoria Else

    The problem with prepping (what he calls “resilience”) on a one household at a time basis is that the insecurity created by true disasters will mow you and your snug family down like week-old grass. And there really aren’t enough fortress-like mountain tops for people to hide on when the SHTF. The author cites short-lived crises like earthquakes–but we’re facing systemic collapse of entire civilizations. That’s why sustainability of entire communities is still the real goal–of course that means individual resilience as well. But one at a time efforts mean that none will survive.

    1. jgordon

      Well, you’re right about that. Although to my way of thinking sustainability refers to top-down bureaucratic initiatives from the entrenched political order that are opposed to bottom-up resilience initiatives that come from individuals and small communities.

      Everyone I’ve heard so far talking about resilience has put a lot of emphasis on the importance of community, so I don’t know where this image of the lone survivalist holed up in a mountain bunker clutching his guns and bullion comes from. Maybe it’s a fantasy that the paranoid elite liberals (American usage of the word) have pulled out of their rears to comfort themselves; the knowledge that most people don’t want to have anything to do with them or their ideas must be so painful that they create these kinds of fantasies to comfort themselves.

      1. Lexington

        Everyone I’ve heard so far talking about resilience has put a lot of emphasis on the importance of community, so I don’t know where this image of the lone survivalist holed up in a mountain bunker clutching his guns and bullion comes from

        Just check out any of the popular prepper blogs. This is the dominant leitmotif in their conception of the post SHTF world. It conveniently combines several of their core preoccupations: first, most American preppers are also gun nuts, and indeed a fair part of what they consider “prepping” consists of arcane discussions about the virtues of various firearms and ammo. This segs neatly into their next preoccupation, which is that a big reason the world is going to hell in a handbasket is because of the various moochers like welfare queens and people of color who are leeching off hard working salt of the earth types like themselves. Put them together and they conceive of the coming crisis as a sort of zombie apocalypse with the moochers playing the part of the zombies who are going to be coming for their stuff (cause they didn’t prep and are utterly dependent on the now defunct nanny state to care for them), while they and their beloved firearms will provide the righteous purgation that will undo all the accumulated sins of the welfare state and usher in a new age of rugged self reliance in which the worthy will form ideologically, confessionally and ethnically homogenous communities while the unfit perish.

        1. jrs

          I get my mild anti-prepper bias from at one point having spent some time reading what is out there in some of the doomer circles as well. But what most preppers think right now, I haven’t the foggiest, I mean one isn’t scientifically polling preppers right? But theres lots of ugly on the inter-tubes of course.

          1. Lexington

            I may be guilty of some exaggeration, there’s actually a lot of good information on these blogs too and it would unfair and misleading for me to paint everyone with the same brush. Also, no one comes out and explicitly says what I said, but you don’t have to read very hard between the lines to see that for many of them this is at least broadly how they envision the future unfolding.

          2. cwaltz

            Most of the preppers strike me as people with mental health issues. It’s one thing to anticipate that there may come a time when you’ll be dealing with a less than ideal situation and planning for it, it’s another to obsess over it. It just can’t be healthy to always be anticipating the end of the world.

    2. Tom Bradford

      My thought too, from down here in the empty hills of New Zealand. Four folk to the square mile don’t go in for rioting or internicene warfare and in the event of a natural disaster or a breakdown of society outside we are ‘resilient’ in that we would probably survive longer than most on our natural resources. But even we would eventually run out of stored, home-grown potatoes, batteries would go flat and we’d run out of bullets, and we would be reduced to the stone-age without the technical skills of our stone-age ancestors to survive it. Only ‘sustainablilty’ practiced by a community large enough to allow for some degree of specialisation could equal survival.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Amazing how fast people can learn if they have to.

        Incidentally: there are people around who know how to make stone tools – or blacksmithing, etc. One of the projects of any Transition (resilience) movement is to find those skills and make them available.

  9. Faye Carr

    It’s good to read things from “people smarter than me” expressing clearly what our community is doing. We dropped the sustainability language over a year ago. As well, unsustainable.

    How to deal with what’s coming rather than how to alter what’s coming.

    We must be doing something right, ‘outsiders’ are trying to make money from us. Selling us their Permaculture Design Courses, Aquaponics Systems, and any number of questionable big ticket items. That automatic honey bee hive comes immediately to mind.

    They don’t seem to realize there just isn’t that kind of disposable income anymore. Or available consumer credit.

    1. Marko

      Ad from a Google search for “disposable income for sale” :

      Buy Disposable Income‎
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    2. Jeremy Grimm

      I agree. The most basic level of resilience is to have more than a few days of food on hand for feeding your family. Many people lack resources to feed their family tonight. Three or four days in reserve is quite beyond their means.

      Another part of basic resilience, MORE important than food!, is to have more than a few days of fresh — potable water on hand. This is “doable” even for the poorest, but more than a small burden of space and time. (I believe preppers keep bleach and locate a source of clear fresh water. I am remiss as a prepper — but will remedy the shortfall!).

  10. Cassiodorus


    “Since 2008, most of the pre-existing trends in income inequality, extreme weather events and energy price volatility have ramped up. Sustainability is about halting and reversing these trends, but there is essentially no evidence of that type of progress, and in fact the data shows the opposite.”

    Too much social science tends to assume that “data” can exist in a vacuum, and so we can plot our correlations any way we want and apply a chi-squared test or two and that our conclusions will make sense regardless. What’s missing from this sort of thinking is an ability to identify causes. So I’m going to identify one here. The reason why some social scientists talk of a “capitalist system” is that, in order to regularize profit and thus facilitate capital accumulation, the world must accommodate itself to capitalist business. Thus said social science can also talk about the “capitalist system” as the cause of ecosystem exhaustion. Perhaps understanding this reality in this way would help Nelson Lebo III explain why nobody really gives two hoots about “trends”?

    “We can see the writing on the wall, and know for the most part that government on every level has not taken significant steps to embrace sustainability be it economic, environmental or social .”

    But that’s not true at all! Government does take significant steps to embrace sustainability — but it’s the sustainability of corporate profit that is being embraced by governments around the world, and so all of the other sustainabilities must necessarily fall by the wayside. If I need to sustain profits through the harvest of timber at a market-determined “sustainable” rate, for instance, the sustainability of forest ecosystems must go away.

    And even if the steps taken by government to embrace the sustainability of corporate profit may from time to time seem insufficient, that is because guarantees of corporate profit generate surplus greed, which introduces new risk into the system. What does Nelson Lebo III think financial speculation is about?

    1. Ron

      “Since 2008, most of the pre-existing trends in income inequality, extreme weather events and energy price volatility have ramped up”

      Sustainability is an interesting subject but has little to do with the last large financial crisis.

      1. Cassiodorus

        Except that when we talk about volatility, which becomes more and more the “new normal” with each financial crisis, we are talking about an economic system which is itself unsustainable.

  11. Simon Girty

    Resiliency? Is that the hipster euphemism for hippy prepper/ white-flight? Trade agreement oligarchy will upset the most studiously oblivious dreams of escape (as many organic CSA farmers are discovering in gasland). If you take the basic steps of reducing dependency on CAFO meat, GE foodstuffs, tight gas & oil and crumbling/ privatized infrastructure; you’re still paying for a collapsing empire… likely to drag along those of us old-timers opting-out.
    Solar arrays, sustainable gardening & resilient water/ heating systems make more sense away from the CBD & we’re already witnessing the long projected demise of suburbs. But, this translates into increased dependence on carbon (and grid maintenance) until biomass/ diesel, fuel cell/ hydrogen & PV to Graphene nano-tube batteries. Mean time, scores of less conscientious preppers are going ever deeper into EZ Credit/ Payday Loan debt to stock up on autoloading rifles, FLIR scopes, muzzle suppressors & armor piercing .223.

  12. washunate

    Resilience is about survival – how to withstand disasters and then get up again after being knocked down – and is an important skill set to develop as failure becomes a description for the prospects facing an ever growing number of people. Talk to mental health professionals providing treatment to people who lack this skill. It is a major part of the adaptability of the human species, but generally speaking, it must be learned (like language). It is not instinctual like your heart beating.

    But I don’t think it follows that sustainability is somehow passe or whatever. If anything, sustainability is about reducing the amount of failure, not coping with it, and thus is ever more passionately desired by those who see a desperate need for a better world, not just a survivable one.

    What is telling to me about the essay is that it marks 2007/2008 as a major point in time. That means he’s writing for a relatively educated, affluent audience. Nothing wrong with that per se. But the sustainability movement is primarily amongst those who thought things were going wrong before 2008 and don’t see that much has changed since then.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        I do not always agree with jgordon — but I do not appreciate such personalized attacks on anyone. Be kind in your comments. Do disagree but keep the person separate. This blog is a treasure. Agree – disagree but please be kind and reply to opinions and arguments rather than to persons.

  13. Carolinian

    You don’t have to be a very profound student of history to realize that the course of human events is all about resilience, not sustainability. We lurch from one disaster to another and yet the species endures (with much suffering to be sure). I suspect the same will be true of our ongoing century regardless of what happens with AGW etc.

    The truth is that the philosophy of sustainability is a form of human vanity that assumes we can predict and control the future. It is action based on a hypothesis, and as the discussions here about economics keep repeating, models can be deeply flawed.

    So here’s for resilience. Whatever happens we are going to have to have the flexibility and problem solving intelligence–another key human characteristic–to take it on. To expect the “March of Folly,” as Barbara Tuchman called it, to come to an end because we are now all modern and scientific isn’t very likely.

    1. hunkerdown

      Are the molds even still around for that thing anymore? The $12 “Gongkai” phone (bunnie studios). Almost too simple to hack.

      I’m rocking this one right here, after all these years. It’s still an Internet terminal more so than a phone, and a dated one at that, but (with a community firmware) it’s free enough of commercial nonsense to be usable.

    2. frosty zoom

      well as i’ve never owned a cellphone (still using the old rotaries!), i guess i’ve got you beat.

  14. NotSoSure

    Perhaps as one gets older, one understands the difference between liking the idea of oneself caring about other people vs truly caring about other people.

  15. wbgonne

    It is no surprise that author demarks 2008 as the point that sustainability was minimized into resilience. The identical phenomenon occurred as efforts to curtail global warming were corrupted into mitigating the effects of global warming (with the attendant fantasy that it is possible to adapt to a global system undergoing accelerating change). No surprise on the timing because that was quite obviously Obama’s mission: run on hope and change and then prove the former is an illusion and the latter an impossibility. Mission accomplished.

    Here’s the thing. There are many, many people who simply do not have the capacity for resilience that is required to absorb all the pain being inflicted. A cruel, heartless society animated solely by greed yields cruel, heartless people. And since most of these anomic actors know they will never achieve the obscene wealth the culture glories, they become hopeless as well. Many of these angry and hopeless people, especially young males, turn to violence and crime. And when the number of angry and hopeless people reaches critical levels, the society collapses.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Suffering on a vast scale already happens in so many countries, and you are correct, this one will not be spared.

  16. Garrett Pace

    This doesn’t sound particularly new – smacks of “think globally act locally” slactivism. If there is a difference maybe its the Left is starting to give up on their political movements and leaders accomplishing anything worthwhile on their behalf.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      “slactivism”? — OK. What is your opinion? What “political movements and leaders” do you follow and support? What do you look to them “accomplishing” “worthwhile” on your behalf? Please contribute to the discussion.

      1. Garrett Pace

        I’ve been impressed by some third party candidates, nationally and locally, and have growing respect for the statesmen of previous eras.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          We are one in our attraction to third party candidates.

          However, I continue my belief in William Domhoff’s analysis of third party politics in the American system. I will vote for Bernie Sanders in the primary, but barring the unforeseen, I will be counted as an “under-vote” for the main election.

  17. Rosario

    I don’t doubt the author has a great many skills but his insights are lacking philosophically. I think it needs to be made very clear that when SHTF no one will be prepared because no one truly understands the implications of systemic collapse. Things are no where close to bad yet, and when we think they are bad, I’d be willing to bet they aren’t. The gradient of survival for human beings is more gradual then we think. Being accustomed to relative luxury historically is what people in the West will be fussing over in the coming years. Also, using the phrase SHTF when used WRT systemic collapse always rubs me the wrong way. S*** has been hitting the fan for most people on this planet for a very long time outside Europe and English speaking countries. It reflects the privileged bias and also should clarify how little westerners understand what actual resilience and sustainability represent in community and economy. Resilience is found in the extended community and kin groups (i.e. deep social relations in line with the requirements for survival in a given environment). An atomized (or “clumped”) population with solar panels, permaculture gardens, and all the archetypal accessories merely buy a little time, at best, if basic civil structures fall apart. I won’t even get deep into the fact that only the relatively wealthy can afford and implement these “catastrophe buffers” (thus the enormous ethical/moral dilemma). Most people don’t realize how much they take for granted basic civil constructs. Our civil institutions, however corrupted, simulate the clans, tribes, and kin groups of old. Having structures to simulate social bonds and create common cause means more for our survival then all the planning a prepper could possibly do. Abandon the “failed” society at your own peril.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Agree — an insightful comment.

      I know only my own country, though I have traveled and seen similar changes to what you allege occurring in other lands. The bond of kinship is fractured by the demands for a “flexible workforce.”

      I live in the American East, 6 hours drive South of my sister and more than half the continent apart from my birthplace and familial home. One brother lives in the deep South and the other in the far Northwest. Many forces conspired to shred the kinship bonds in my family. But I do not feel alone. In the community where I live there are Indians, Chinese, Koreans and many other groups far far away from their roots. These first and second generation immigrants retain familial and social ties I envy. But what I’ve seen of the generations that follow — they are more removed from their kin than I am. My children are second generation half-Chinese and already too far removed from the support of kinship.

      “Resilience is found in the extended community and kin groups … ” This is true — but I hope it is not the only truth. Part of establishing extended community where there is none will flow from those “solar panels, permaculture gardens, and all the archetypal accessories merely buy a little time …” — at least that remains my hope. Without community, and kin we need to acquire knowledge to help such community as we can find after a collapse or to initiate the seed for community. John Michael Greer calls this learning “Green Wizardry” — his book I just started.

      Being a “prepper” should be very far from abandoning “the “failed” society.” We have discovered knowledge — much more than any one person could learn of or master — that offers respite from a collapse to a stone-age, or even bronze-age existence. We inherit thousand year-old plant and animal inventions. We inherit discoveries of knowledge from thousands of years of learning. We inherit wisdom and philosophy, culture, and art from our “failed society” we would miss and should we lose these arts and sciences, should forever deserve the blame of future generations. Whether we work to sustain or prepare or both we all must learn of arts, science and wisdom of our past and do all that we can to preserve and carry these gifts into the future. Perhaps some wise and clever few of us might add to the gifts in the process of preserving them and keeping their fires alive.

    2. Knute Rife

      I think history gives all sorts of examples of systemic collapse that allow us to have some decent understanding of the implications. The problem we face is that we can’t predict which set of collapses (and there is a wide variety) we shall be dealing with.

    3. kareninca

      “Resilience is found in the extended community and kin groups (i.e. deep social relations in line with the requirements for survival in a given environment).”

      And in those circumstances, it is the group that is resilient and survives. Individual members of the group drop like flies.

  18. Vatch

    There are several comments here on what sustainability is, and whether it is a failed ideology. I think sustainability is completely impossible at the world’s current population of 7.3 billion people. At this population, sooner or later, probably sooner, things will start to collapse, and few will be able to maintain their current standard of living. For the majority of the people on the planet, prosperity is already impossible.

    But sustainability is quite possible, provided the people on our planet stop having so many babies. It’s probably too late to avoid some symptoms of collapse; let’s just hope that people wake up sufficiently to avoid the worst types of systemic collapse. I’m not optimistic; too many ideologues and religious enthusiasts continue to extol the “virtues” of large families.

    1. subgenius

      Given the absolute refusal of governments or populations to move toward anything technically definable as sustainable during my entire lifetime – club of rome published about when i was born and has (so far as i can tell) been totally ignored by all in any position of power…population has continued to climb, and there is way more breathless harping on about the latest apple product and bullshit technowankery by musk than anything remotely definable as heading in a sustainable direction…I have to disagree.

      How long do you think the species has to “have less babies”? And given that most of the younger generations use way less resources as a function of less wealth and opportunity…seems unlikely to be enough (too little, too late) and also smacks of passing the blame from the most profligate wasteful and uncaring cohort in history to yet another weaker group (o how history rhymes)

      Plague war famine and strife are going to be our lot going forward. Get used to it. This is what happens when you hand control to idiots running a gameable rulebook that is at odds with physical reality (also known as economists and politicians).

      1. Ed

        “Everyone has less babies” is a completely doable strategy. If everyone has on average one child, then almost by definition the population gets halved each generation. You just need to halve 7.3 billion twice to get below 2 billion, then again to get below the pre-industrial 1 billion mark. There is some overhang obviously from people living longer, but the point is that world population can go down as quickly as it went up (it went from 2 billion to 7 billion in 70 years), and with surprisingly not alot of pain.

        This is happening already in the most advanced (in terms of technology and education) parts of the world. We can see the costs of this happening in Japan. You will have a few generations who will have to live pretty meaningless lives -either spending their time playing videogames or shopping. Arranging care for the elderly is a problem. There is also economic stagnation and limited opportunity for some time, since half of GDP growth comes simply through population increase. But if you look at life in places like Japan and Italy, its really not that bad, nowhere near the catastrophe natalists make it out to be. Note that neither the Japanese or Italian governments have had to use coercion to reduce or contain their populations, unlike the case in some countries.

        However, I do think the level of societal development needed to persuade people to have less children simply won’t be reached in most places (and I include the US in this category), so we likely are pretty screwed.

        1. subgenius

          doable =/= gonna happen

          it was doable to change tack in the 70s….

          it was doable to sort out corruption in the financial sector…

          it was doable to [fill in blank]

          Not seeing much positive doing though..are you?

        2. Oregoncharles

          US population growth is already at or below replacement – most of our growth comes from immigration. The same is true of Europe, to say nothing of Japan. That, at least, is doable, mainly by making babies optional. Turns out women just don’t want that many of them, given the choice. Little wonder.

        3. Vatch

          It’s not clear to me that a certain “level of societal development” is required to persuade people to have fewer children. The birth rate in Bangladesh, for example, has dropped significantly over the past few decades. It’s still too high, but millions of people in this very poor country understand the need for smaller families. Population Media Center is an organization that uses radio and television soap operas to encourage sensible family planning in Third World countries.

          Since the goal on our overpopulated world is population reduction, it’s not just in the Third World where people need to have smaller families. People in the United States also need to have smaller families. Americans should lead by example. Currently, it’s the Europeans and the Japanese who are providing good examples of family size for the rest of the world.

    2. cwaltz

      I’m no more a fan of people telling others NOT to have children than I am of people telling others to have them.

      Personally, I find it selfish to say you can only have x amount of kids because I don’t want to give up my cars, cell phones, computers, and all the luxuries that I have.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Did you miss the drought in the West? It’s the direct result of too many people. All the resource issues key off population. And I hate to tell you, but more kids = more driving, more phones, bigger houses, etc. The idea that one person ora couple with no kids is consuming enough in the way of extra luxuries that would outdo the impact of more children is wildly off base for the overwhelming majority of the population.

        1. cwaltz

          Can you link me to definitive data that not just suggests but proves that the drought is a direct result of too many people?

          Droughts have occurred throughout history for example in the 1930 America experienced a drought that spanned 23 states. Australia experienced drought in 1901. While Sahel did experience a drought in 2010, it also experienced it in the 1740s and 1750s.

          I’m a person that believes in good stewardship and I understand how potentiation works(I understand that CO2 causes things to heat up and that can speed up the evaporation process)however water vapor is the largest greenhouse gas and it is not directly impacted by us. At times our planet went from an ice pop(the ice age was also caused by varying levels of CO2 and ended by them) to warm enough to support life as we know it today and it did so without a bunch of humans heating things up. While I respect science, it has been more than once or twice been known to get it wrong and has gaps in its knowledge. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in conserving however it does mean that I reject the idea that people should adjust their procreation because some have decided that the weather is all the fault of overpopulation(despite evidence that suggests that the Earth has cycled through not just one but several ice ages without the population we have today.)

          1. susan the other

            A good book came out about 15 or 20 years ago on water in the west, specifically California. “Cadillac Desert” was about water policy – national, state, regional, and local – dating back to the 1930s and before which was based more or less on pure hubris. The great American West has always been a desert and there will be no changing that fact. With strict management and conservation the available water can now barely manage to satisfy all needs even in good years. The difference now from the 1930s, when everyone could deny this reality, is population growth, which creates a feedback loop causing ever more environmental stress, harm and collapse. In 1930 California had 3 (yes 3) milllion people, now it’s pushing 40. To let the population growth off the hook with a comment about the inevitability of climate changes is simply to beg the question.

          2. Vatch

            Complex events have multiple causes. The drought is partly caused by too many people, and the difficulty in managing the drought is mostly caused by too many people. It’s not just too many people in California. The problem includes the over abundance of people elsewhere who are customers of the water consuming California agriculture industry.

            Nearly every environmental problem is either caused or worsened by overpopulation. Poverty is also either caused or worsened by overpopulation. The Green Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s was an opportunity to eliminate hunger on our planet. Unfortunately, the population kept rising, and the improvements in agricultural productivity couldn’t keep up. Hundreds of millions of malnourished people still suffer on our planet.

            Your remarks about water vapor as a greenhouse gas are partly true, but are also misleading. Yes, water vapor is the most important greenhouse agent, but carbon dioxide is the greenhouse gas that has increased over the past 2 or 3 centuries. It has increased because there are billions of fossil fuel users, and the number of fossil fuel users continues to rise.

            Here’s a thought experiment for you: name a problem that is solved or ameliorated by human population increase.

          3. Sluggeaux

            I believe the point being made by Yves is that the current “drought” is typical of the historic California weather patterns seen during the 160-odd years since we joined the Union; it is certainly within the pattern of wet/dry periods since my ancestors immigrated to California 110 years ago.

            This wet/dry pattern was the impetus for leaders like O’Shaugnessy, Mullholland, and Jerry’s dad “Pat” Brown to engage in massive water projects, creating our legacy of dams, reservoirs, and acqueducts. However, planning stopped in 1950 when the state’s population was 10 Million; construction effectively ended in 1970, when we were 19 Million, and our current population of 42 Million is over-drawing the system far in excess of its planned “dry years” capacity. The “drought” is somewhat of a mis-nomer — the state grew on the basis of a water system that was never designed to sustain such a huge population.

  19. Alejandro

    “I am because we are.”-proverb of controvertible origin

    I believe “e pluribus unum” is the flip side of same. IMO it comes down to a waning sense of trust, born out of a history of broken promises (trust is basically keeping promises)…and the equanimity with which a distorted and disproportionate sense of obligation is rationalized…then there’s the worship of hedonic excess, oblivious to the corresponding deprivation…

  20. flora

    Some dates and estimated world population numbers:
    1950 – 2.5 billion
    1960 – 3.0 b
    1970 – 3.7 b
    1980 – 4.4 b
    1990 – 5.3 b
    2000 – 6.1 b
    2010 – 6.9 b
    Whenever I read any well intentioned, scientifically reasoned article on ecology, conservation, climate, sustainability, or environmentalism that makes no mention of population growth (and that’s almost all articles – authors don’t want to offend religious or cultural sensibilities ) I know the authors’ proposals are well meant but stand no chance of succeeding at the intended goal. This isn’t an argument to do nothing. It’s just to point out that omitting what is sustainable for 10 people might not be sustainable for 30 people and to ignore population growth undercuts the entire exercise.

    1. brazza

      Hi flora. I think the unspoken shift behind a focus on “sustainability” to “resilience” accepts that a staggering reduction in the world population is now unavoidable, and urges readers to focus on their own immediate needs in case of systemic breakdown. Whether that’s even possible is debatable; consider just the collateral damage from a nuclear power plant collapse, and that resilient home appears somewhat less impregnable. But that doesn’t alter the realism of the observations that catastrophic reduction in the number of humans on the planet is likely, that we shouldn’t expect much help from government bodies, and that we’d be wise to invest time and effort in developing local community preparedness. I’m not sure that this need be approached as a selfish, me-and-mine obsession either, although much depends in the state of mind of the individual. The psycho-emotive stages that were identified in people who learn they have an incurable disease (Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.”) are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Given the current situation the human race is collectively tracing the same path: most are in denial, those focused on sustainability are bargaining, the author advocates acceptance.

    1. Oregoncharles

      It doesn’t; it’s always community based. Has to be – as several have said above, you can’t make it on your own. I’m sorry the author didn’t dwell on that more.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      I went to the URL you referenced. To the question “Why Are So Many Of The Super Wealthy Preparing Bug Out Locations?” I would add the question why has the (NOT our) government sponsored militarized police and unprecedented levels of surveillance and control? Someone is very frightened of something. I think those of us outside the .01% we (I) may be missing something, some unexpressed, unidentified power we have.

    3. John

      Those elites better hope there’s no one left when they run out of food and water.

    4. different clue

      Those super-rich bug-outers will likely take their personal security guards with them to Bugout’s Gulch. The personal security guards will then turn on the bugouters, kill them, and take all the bugout wealth for themselves.
      That is how new feudal dynasties get started.

  21. WindyCity

    I would like to respond to this statement in Nelson Lebo III’s article:

    Without getting into specific predictions the way Cousteau did: If that is as true as I suspect it is, the one thing it means is that we fool ourselves a whole lot. The entire picture we have created about ourselves, consciously, sub-consciously, un-consciously, you name it, is abjectly false. At least the one I think we have. Which is that we see ourselves as capable of engineering proactive changes in order to prevent crises from blowing up.

    That erroneous self-image leads us to one thing only: the phantom prospect of a techno-fix becomes an excuse for not acting. In that regard, it may be good to remember that one of the basic tenets of the Limits to Growth report was that variables like world population, industrialization and resource depletion grow exponentially, while the (techno) answer to them grows only linearly.

    Is the conclusion that technological growth invariably occurs linearly true? Hasn’t there been exponential growth in the IT and solar sectors? The same may be taking place in the field of nanotechnology. A number of technologists, among them Robert Zubrin, author of “Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil”, argue that Malthusian analyses of our energy quandary—addiction to fossil fuels in an age of rapid population increase—fail to account for viable alternatives that would allow for sustainable growth. Alcohol-based fuels derived from agricultural waste combined with solar power could provide for the vast bulk of our energy needs. What is lacking is the social and political resolve to implement these alternatives. (For more on the exponential potential of technological development consult the work of Ray Kurzweil.) In my opinion, a resort to fatalism (“Resilience,” which sounds suspiciously like survivalism) isn’t called for…yet. The “wall” in front of us is looming, but the writing on it is still illegible. There’s time to pull back and switch to sustainable technologies to meet the basic needs of an advanced global civilization. To achieve this happy outcome will require the spread of a revolutionary spirit that conjoins the efforts of millions of determined people to halt and reverse the juggernaut of corporate greed. I am not arguing against the author’s point that human beings tend to blunder into avoidable crises; I object only to his conclusion a “techno-fix” is an undisputed “phantom”.

    1. subgenius

      See…this is what you get when you dont connect the dots.

      ALL technologies currently in development and production are built on a base of petroleum extraction. It is simply NOT currently possible to make solar, wind, nuclear etc without resorting to massive amounts of petroleum.

      Kurzweil is a loon. He made a good sampler back in the day, I’ll give him that, but he has absolutely no clue about brains or neurology…and even those of us that put in a decade studying it have no clue how it all works in reality…just a load of handwaving guesses.

      There is no sustainable tech, at least in terms of created mass produced objects. Mass production IS the problem.

      Sustainable means going by natural cycles using natural processes – pre industrial.

      You can believe whatever you want…but you dont get to have your own facts.

      1. Will Cooper

        Yes, all right. The point is to transition away from a reliance on fossil fuels. Conservation and efficiency can help reduce the carbon inputs until a sustainable infrastructure has been established.

        His theory about brain function and consciousness (“How To Create A Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed”), based on his work at Google, does seem prematurely cocksure, but I was referring to his prognostications about the exponential growth of certain technologies. He’s been uncannily accurate.

        I cannot agree with you.

        Indeed not. I do disagree with you about what the facts are. Sustainable mass production is achievable.

        1. subgenius

          …and what, exactly, are your credentials to make the claim (in light of absolutely ZERO real-world evidence) that “sustainable mass production is achievable”???

          1. subgenius

            Let me expand…

            UNLESS you can manufacture with 100% recycling, and only using solar insolation as total power input, by definition – YOU ARE NOT SUSTAINABLE.

            1. subgenius

              further- how do you build infrastructure without carbon fuels?

              you think you can run mining, refining, power generation, transport on non-petroleum?

              good luck with that.

              As previously stated, your opinions are yours, reality is free to disagree.

                  1. WindyCity

                    If you believe you have facts that contradict my statements, by all means cite them. Otherwise, you’re simply waving your hands and crying “Nay!” Not very helpful. That said, my claim that you’re assuming a closed system of resource inputs seems probable to me, since you wrote the following: “UNLESS you can manufacture with 100% recycling, and only using solar insolation as total power input, by definition – YOU ARE NOT SUSTAINABLE.” I claim that “100% recycling” is not necessary to achieve sustainability, since raw materials can (and will be) no doubt acquired from extraterrestrial sources. Secondly, advanced manufacturing techniques envisioned currently—but which no known physics contravenes—will allow the utilization of abundant, virtually inexhaustible, basic elements to construct nearly anything we please, including food. Yes, of course we will continue to consume (on a diminishing scale) fossil fuels to enable the transition to renewable fuels, principally methane from urban and agricultural waste, along with the usual suspects, solar, wind, geothermal, wave, OTEC, etc. My rather elementary observation is that the implementation of sustainable production will require the leveraging of currently widely existing energy sources, namely fossil fuels. With a concerted global push, humanity should be able to reduce its consumption of these devastating climate change drivers on an accelerating schedule as their replacements become more established. Once again, you seem quite agitated by my posts. Not sure why. But if you have proof that sustainability isn’t possible, then please adduce your evidence.

                    1. WindyCity

                      Correction: I wrote “methane” when I meant “methanol”, which can be produced from wood chips, crop residues, garbage, and so on.

                    2. subgenius

                      Well, this is what the cheerleaders at MIT and CalTech have to say:

                      According to the KISS study, the cost for a future mission to identify and return a 500 ton asteroid to low earth orbit is ~$2.6 billion USD, ignoring the costs to develop the infrastructure necessary to process the materials in the asteroid

                      At present, asteroid mining is a highly speculative technique; the research and technology to successfully exploit these mineral resources is still under development. Challenges include categorization and identification of mineable deposits, building the infrastructure to mine and refine asteroid material, and creating the ability to move mined material onto earth. Current proposals suggest placing processing facilities in earth or lunar orbit with regular access service to the asteroid belt. The remoteness of these facilities will make them difficult to create and maintain, requiring significant advances in robotic technology. Asteroid mining is a technology in its earliest stages with massive start-up costs.

                      The term “vaporware” seems appropriate for the current state. It might change, IF we can get through the decades the development is likely to take and it actually turns out to be feasible.

                      Until it is demonstrated the technology exists there is no reliable claim it is possible, or viable,

                      I remember it being claimed the JET would be running a sustained fusion reaction before long, well over a decade (and vast sums of money) ago. This strikes me as a similar claim with little back up.

                    3. subgenius


                      Asteroid mining is a technology in its earliest stages with massive start-up costs.

                      is the end of what CalTech and MIT have to say, the rest is me.

              1. jonboinAR

                At this point, of course, no theoretically sustainable (non-fossil-fuel depending upon) over-structure (can’t think of the right term. Granddaughter is pestering.) is possible to build without depending upon fossil fuels to build it, but that does not mean that once the say, solar-powered, structure is built that it itself is not sustainable at that point. You take the fact that at this point, building it without fossil fuels is not possible to mean that sustaining it, once built, without fossil fuel input for basic energy is impossible, but you have not demonstrated that.

                1. jrs

                  Well you’ll need to replace parts of it at times surely. This is merely depreciation, it happens even when things are well made. Is fixing your solar power structure independent of fossil fuels? I think maybe if it’s passive solar it’s heading in that direction, solar panels and stuff I don’t know.

                  1. WindyCity

                    If the entire manufacturing system were to have transitioned to renewables and solar, then presumably the energy needed to maintain existing plant and infrastructure would be derived from renewables and solar.

                  2. jonboinAR

                    I don’t know if maintaining the structure is or isn’t dependent on fossil fuels. I imagine petroleum derived products (all kinds of plastics) will be essential in the manufacture of high tech things for the foreseeable future, but that’s different from Subgenius’s claim that our inability to make the original renewable structure without fossil fuels means that we can’t maintain it or continue to build it without them or at least a much reduced dependence. I don’t think the one implies the other.

                2. subgenius

                  Missing the point.

                  Fossil fuel is required because the energy density of the alternatives is a joke.

                  Example: Tesla Powerwall $13,000
                  Home Depot generator and a gallon of gas $400 (or less)

                  You also might find it remarkably difficult to manufacture concrete (a material REALLY poor for the environment, but how else are you going to build your hi tech gear without it) with some solar panels.

                  There is a reason you don’t get electric powered 18 wheelers.

                  1. washunate

                    Yeah, but that’s the thing. A different world would be different. We wouldn’t be doing long distance transportation via electric trucks, of course.

                    We would do it via rail.

                    Once you make oil simply another resource, rather than the energy source around which our entire civilization is based, you realize there is a ton of energy out there. Significant chunks of the existing fossil fuel usage could realistically be replaced by solar and wind power. There are specific implementation logistics to doing that, but there’s no fundamental problem of lack of energy or energy density.

                    Combine that with more sensible building and living arrangements and you can have a similar standard of living with significantly less aggregate usage of fossil fuels. The auto-centric, oil-based development sprawl is as much what is wrong with our society as what is right with it. More walkable communities and less industrial agriculture and so forth wouldn’t be a downgrade. They would be an upgrade.

                    Maybe our species runs into that more fundamental energy problem in the future, but we are nowhere near that today.

                    1. subgenius

                      Let me know when this different world of which you speak arrives. Because I see no evidence of it.

                      What I do see evidence of is idiocy like high speed rail, when efficient and reliable transport should be the agenda (as you point out) and teslas apple gadgets selfdriving cars etc.

                    2. subgenius

                      Sorry…cut the end off that last post…

                      The sprawl problem is directly related to our burgeoning populatuon, our economic system, and our profligate wasting of resources.

                      In order to achieve what it seems needs to be done for a moderate chance at long term survival requires a radical change across all those areas.

                      Today I see shell has been allowed back to drillung the arctic.

                      This is not change, progress, etc

                    3. washunate

                      Oh yeah, I completely agree there are implementation details that are tricky. My point is that it is possible at a basic level of physics/engineering/behavioral finance for us to organize resources at scale in a much more productive manner.

                      We might run into technical challenges in the future where we simply lack a sufficient aggregate supply of energy, but right now, our problem is one of political economy, not natural resources.

  22. Sluggeaux

    These are (nearly) all terrific comments; however, we seem to be avoiding the real driver of the “Crisis”: Demography.

    I took this issue up with economist Joseph Stiglitz at a book-signing a week ago, and he conceded that this significant factor is not being properly addressed. World population is estimated to have been just under 2.5B human beings in 1950. Today it is estimated to exceed 7B and will crest 8B in but another decade. This population is simply unsustainable under any circumstance, let alone relying on social and economic frameworks created circa 1950.

    When I think about how I plan to live in the years 2020-2040 (if I am so fortunate to live that long), I look to how the French lived under the Nazi occupation. Some collaborated, some resisted, some were murdered — but most lived resiliently simply to survive. Not everyone can be so fortunate to acquire a country house with a rainwater collection system, a garden, and seven alternative cooking systems (!), but I plan to invest my meager savings accordingly.

    Demography has dictated our collective destiny.

  23. tongorad

    Our masters and overlords certainly know the threat of working-class organizing. That’s why unions have been systematically dismantled. Once you take away those solidarity, what else are we supposed to rally around?

  24. AQ

    I wonder how widely her sort of thinking is shared.

    She became a victim of the system and had her eyes opened. Before that she believed herself immune because she played by the rules and didn’t realize she could be subjected to the same forces regularly applied to the victims within our own country. I also suspect that she wasn’t willing to look at how she was a benefactor of that same system.

    Much easier to save the savages from themselves because they don’t know any better. aka: The victims do it to themselves. Or so US (global?/western?) cultural messaging would have us believe.

    Just a guess. I know I feel certain aspect of this myself, although I never wanted to save other cultures. I always thought that was the height of hubris and there were other reasons people had for wanting to do so. Kind of like the charitable industrial complex. Destroy and exploit on one hand and ‘rescue’ to a point with the other.

    As for the 2008 date in the article:
    I would hypothesize that for many, Bush and his administration were ‘seen’ as corrupt AND incompetent. The thought being that if only someone competent was voted into office, they could ‘save’ us and all would be right with the world again… In victim speak, if only they knew the ‘truth’ then they would do this or they’d stop doing…

    Turns out: Not so much difference. Except that the axe fell even more viciously and now Blaine is leaving the station and we’re left to wonder what will happen once he reaches that Topeka station.

    Once you’ve swallowed the red pill (willing or by force), you realize that you have to bunker yourself and those who helped you weather the last storm because there is another one on the horizon and you might not survive this one. Unfortunately, you also realize that you have NO control, very little actual power (as Yves’ friend has discovered to her horror) combined with no idea of what form the next storm will take.

    that said, for every person who hunkers down, there will be those who take the blue pill, those who see this as a call to arms and others who will simply get wiped off the map. I suspect that Yves’s friend is afraid that the next time, she will be in the later group although probability says she still has more options left than many, even those in the US.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, she was outside it for two decades. She’s been focused on the population issue for a while.

      And she came from an old-money family and they tend to be less consumption-oriented than new money.

      1. susan the other

        I wish her a tiny bit more optimism. It takes a long time to stop a freight train. But I’d just like to say I think governments only give the appearance they are doing nothing. I think they are actually in high gear. But that’s just me.

  25. Terry Mock

    It is easy is see why Nelson says, “Sustainability is about voluntarily balancing three factors: human needs, environmental health, and economic viability. My observation is that it has been a failed movement and that the conversation has naturally shifted to resilience.”

    Origin of Sustainability Movement Leads to Current Challenges
    Individual components of sustainability have come together, but were initiated and promoted by seperate advocates and frames of reference…

    How Do We Develop a Sustainable Civilization?
    A universal geometrical algorithm that balances the needs of people, planet and profit – The SLDI Code™

  26. Eureka Springs

    I’ve spent quite a bit of time on a 41 year running commune with about 65 permanent residents this Spring. Known about it and many former residents have been dear friends for over thirty years. I can’t begin to express my amazement at what they have accomplished and how well they live. All food, clothing, shelter taken care of… even health insurance and a small monthly stipend is earned… available for all. Everyone works and all decisions are made on consensus. I think most people are unwilling/incapable of imagining true sustainability or resiliency. Hard work, no doubt…. but achievable on so many levels. Unless they are invaded by significant number of militants of a sort under a disaster, they can make it well.

    It’s always a good thing when people talk about it (either sust. or res.)… but the vast majority of the reasoning for not doing so is simply because people don’t want too, not because they can’t.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Please explain further — “I think most people are unwilling/incapable of imagining true sustainability or resiliency.” Why are the people of your commune “unwilling/incapable of imagining true sustainability or resiliency?” I am curious — your observation seems strange to me.

      1. Oregoncharles

        I think you misunderstood; he meant most OTHER people, treating the commune as a good example.

    2. kareninca

      They don’t have to be overrun by militants for it to fail. They could just be overrun by random desperate people; that would be enough. In truly bad circumstances that would happen; the police would be busy protecting their own families – even in limited disasters like Katrina and Sandy, the police were not there for people. Your commune, in those circumstances, is only as secure as your own defense of it is – that is why stereotypical preppers have guns. I know that that is not a popular answer here, but I would imagine an armed community would be able to fend off the desperate more effectively than an unarmed one. For a little while. Then they’d all die of cholera or diphtheria. Wow, what a depressing scenario.

      1. jrs

        It’s also questionable to what extent life in those conditions is worth sustaining, where the price of it is murdering a bunch of desperate people, even without the cholera and diphtheria.

        But life in empire is not much better, well one neither directly pulls the trigger nor has much control over those who do.

    3. susan the other

      It takes a shared vision and a certain threshold of people. I’m always rejuvenated by stories like this. So, what exactly is it that stops us?

  27. Nelson Lebo

    Hi Yves,
    Thanks for posting this article. Raul tipped me off. It’s great to see it has sparked healthy debate. Two important points that I think you missed in your preamble.

    First, it was not my intention to indicate an “abandonment of the notion of sustainability.” What I wrote is that I do not bang the drum for sustainability anymore. I practice it on a daily basis. I have meant to make a couple of points in the article: 1) My observations of the global debate on many issues has shifted to resilience over the last 7 years; and 2) Most people in my direct experience relate much stronger to the notion of resilience than sustainability. I work with patterns and both of these are strong patterns I have observed since 2008. As a community educator, it is my duty to take the most effective approach to support my fellow citizens. The resilience approach has been hugely successful across the socio-economic spectrum.

    Second, the word community is used three times in my article along with a reference to sharing our project locally. I’d say that scores 4 mentions of us supporting our neighbours and our city. Characterizing the piece as focusing on “me, mine, my family” is simply inaccurate. I know of few people in the sustainability movement worldwide who are more community-focused than us or who are more generous with their time. Ask anyone who has ever met us or worked with us, including Ilargi and Nicole at the Automatic Earth.

    I see no problem challenging someone on their own “home turf.” I think it is important to do. But it is necessary to make sure you are accurate in your critique.

    Kind regards, Nelson

    p.s. My mobile phone is seven years old.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Would you please clarify why you chose 2008 as a turning point in your thinking? Several comments here speculate on that question.

  28. Fool

    Their political and financial power is so great and they can prevent change. It is my expectation that they will succeed. This means that we are going to evolve through crisis, not through proactive change [my emphasis].

    Well this sounds sad, but true. Think about it: climate-change deniers, if pressed, can’t name a single scientist/academy that supports their view (with the exception of some hole in the wall in Bristol, UK).* And yet, the lack of forceful change in environmental policy indicates that either people don’t give enough of a shit (about, like, facts), or they do but the Koch’s of the world are just too powerful.

    It makes me wonder that perhaps what the environmental movement needs, if all progressive causes, is more assholes at the wheel willing to exploit circumstance to further their (socially beneficial) agenda. That being said, it’s tragic to think that after the next natural disaster your money would be better spent going to a political group leveraging the occasion to advance an agenda than it would be going to the victims of said tragedy. Oh well


    *This is a fact. I was recently arguing with one who I later learned was an oil&gas lobbyist for the Kochs. He was a smart guy who probably wouldn’t so much as give his attention to someone from that university. My point is that intellectually, these people couldn’t be more disingenuous and they know it.

    1. subgenius

      What the environmental movement needs is the thing that gave MLK and Gandhi leverage…

      1. Oregoncharles

        An armed resistance in the background?

        You’re going to bring back monkey wrenching?

        Or the ELF? (Who are now in prison.)

      2. Jeremy Grimm

        Forgive me if I am dense — what is that “thing” you speak of? Please elaborate.

        1. subgenius

          MLK offered an alternative to the BPP, Gandhi offered an alternative to Subhas Chandra Bose’s INA.

          Both MLK and Gandhi were more palatable than the alternative, but neither would have commanded the power they did absent that alternative.

          It is a sad state of affairs, but it is the way it happened, and is historically verifiable.

          1. KNute Rife

            To paraphrase Stokely Carmichael, “For nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience. The 1% have none.”

            1. Vatch

              A minor quibble: it’s the 0.01% who tend to lack a conscience. There really are some decent people at the bottom end of the top 1%.

  29. fresno dan

    “People are horrified to see how antique my cell phone is, and I find their disapproval comical.”

    I wish it was that benign – I didn’t have a cell phone until two years ago, and people equated my action, or rather, lack of action, with being a communist, nazi, witch, warlock, satanist, pedophile, Scientologist, technophobe, homophobic, homosexual, fascist, racist, fan of Olivia Newton-John, Taylor Swift, and/or Wings.

    1. Knute Rife

      Could have been worse. They could have considered you a fan of Justin Bieber. Or Nickelback.

  30. jrs

    People are more and more time crunched. Not enough economic security, not enough time. A good society is incompatible with a 40 hour (or more) work week. Long ago women used to be more in charge of the social and volunteer aspects of society but now women work full time as well. I’m not arguing to turn back that clock, I’m instead arguing for a future where everyone works less.

    I take environmentally more harmful short cuts for convenience, and then feel bad about it, most people probably do. It’s why we really need to stop glorifying production for productions sake, work for works sake. It’s a part of life, not the whole it’s been made (Work=life is the framing that benefits the profiteers, it doesn’t need to be ours).

    By being frugal and careful with purchases like Yves it may achieve a social good, even beyond the environmental. A book called “The Joyless Economy” mentions the social benefits of careful shopping, it improves what is offered etc.. But yes people are often too exhausted and overwhelmed to care. Social benefits? Survival is too hard! It’s just “tragedy of the commons”, which could be overcome by law (problem is laws tend to be made by the powerful) or social values. Although life in general should not be as hard as it’s been made, just all so some can get filthy rich.

    And I feel overwhelmed by what goes on in the world all the time and want to retreat as well. Plus how much can one do? And how many have the REAL (not virtual) social network to accomplish much? You can’t manufacture a movement out of whole cloth. Bourgeoisie movements like 350 dot org go nowhere and play super nice with the powers that be that are killing us!!! Movements by the marginalized actually get attention and so maybe it’s best just to join them (those against police shootings, for raising the minimum wage).

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I just ordered a copy of “Joyless Economy” on Amazon (ugh! but from a third party – eh!)

      “How much can one [person] do?”
      Continue to support movements! Glorious defeat is better than a loss.

      But much more important — learn and share wisdom. One disciple (unknown, unmet) can share and carry forward wisdom and knowledge hard discovered of a thousand years.

  31. Oregoncharles

    The real difference between sustainability and resilience: “When the proverbial sh*t hits the fan, which all the trends tell us will happen,”
    Is the end of “hopium.” Sustainability is intended to prevent the s..t from hitting the fan; resilience is intended to deal with it – afterwards. So yes, dark, because it assumes bad things are going to happen. But not essentially selfish, as he makes clear at the end. At the very least, a “resilient” family is one the relief system won’t have to deal with in a disaster.
    And if enough of us did this, we’d have a “sustainable” society.

  32. Jeremy Grimm

    I am among those this post speaks of. I see things growing worse in spite all efforts. Looking forward to the 2016 elections does little to encourage optimism. I agree with the comments above suggesting there is no conflict between supporting sustainability and resilience. As for personal versus community action, I support community action where I find it but must retain a concern for myself and my family. Where I live strong forces separate individuals and spread mutual distrust detrimimental to community action.

    I perceive subtle efforts at community and individual control. I joined the local Democratic club hoping to find community there. Instead I found sheep, efforts to collect contributions for candidates, a lot of dictation of “How it is” from above, little questioning or support for those who ask too many questions, and worse still, little of the basic social connection I long for.

    I joined a local farmer’s coop (NOT a Farmer’s Market organization) as a small buyer and made purchases of bushels of this and that — Jonagold apples, sweet corn-on-the-cob, sweet potatoes … and tried to give away portions of these things to my neighbors in the condominium complex where I live. I didn’t and still don’t know my neighbors. I seldom even see them though I’ve lived here for several years. Many weren’t at home. I tried other times of course. Many were very suspicious of my offerings and my motive. My simple motive was to find enough neighbors interested in locally grown fresh produce to support my own desire to buy a bushel of leeks, just for example, and use or preserve what I could of them without wasting half a bushel or half a day cutting, washing, blanching and freezing them. I wanted to buy a $6 bushel of tomatoes and give most away or find others interested in canning them with me.

    I tendered my first gifts with no strings. When I found someone at home I offered a gift of apples or corn and explained I purchased a bushel or a large bag for a good price and wanted to share and make certain my bounty was eaten and enjoyed. All I asked was that they accept my gift and make use of it. I hoped some neighbors might ask the origin of my bounty and express some form of interest I could work with to promote the farmer’s coop and promote my desire to eat better and less expensively. I also felt I was helping to build community in some very small way.

    I had trouble getting rid of my bushel of Jonagold apples and my bag of corn. My neighbors were suspicious and remain suspicious. No one asked where or how I came by my bounties and no one spoke with me any longer than they might have spent on a Saturday morning taking “Watch Tower” pamplets from a pair of Adventists.

    I haven’t given up on community or “sustainability” — caring for others. I am very pessimistic. As the post suggests, my present efforts focus on assuring “resilience” for me and for my family. I do not feel in any way selfish for my order of concerns. I turn inward because I am repulsed from outside and lack the will and resources to fight for more than myself and my own. I did not stop caring.

    1. subgenius

      Pretty much my experience, too.

      There is a strong propensity to “shoot the messenger”.

      Sad, but true.

    2. John Merryman

      Advertise. Set up a farmers market customer’s union in your area. Go visit the farms n see what ways you can help out. Lots of basic knowledge is out there. Like a lot of situations, just keep trying different things.

    3. kareninca

      First of all, leeks are a giant pain. If someone offered me leeks (which I have grown, to my regret), I would tell them to forget it. No, not really, but I wouldn’t want them. And actually I don’t like Jonagold apples, either. Look, people know how to shop already. They don’t know you. How do they know you’re not a poisoner?

      I think you innocently took the wrong approach. People don’t know what to make of a stranger giving them something; they figure that they will ultimately have to reciprocate (which they will). In this case they have no idea what you will ultimately ask them for in return.. There is a whole realm of anthropological/sociological research on this sort of thing, which you should read up on, so that you can go about this in a less disappointing way – why reinvent the wheel when researchers have spent their lives on figuring out how these social things work?

      One thing you could do is start a “Buy Food Together” club. Put up a lot of signs and post meeting times. Advertise a lot. People won’t go to it (they have better things to do), but then in the future if you offer them food they will at least have a way to think about what you are doing. “Oh, he’s the annoying food guy.” Keep setting up and advertising dorky clubs until you finally hit on something that people like.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        @Kareninca — Not sure how to respond to your comment.

        I have lived in the same three story condominium complex for several years. The people I tried to offer stuff to live right next door or across the entry from me, immediately above or below my floor. in the little neighborhood where I grew up. We knew our neighbors then. When I was a kid my mom would shew me out the door to go play with the other kids in the neighborhood. But things have changed a bit and changed in ways I don’t understand and don’t like. Somehow reading “Bowling Alone” or Marcel Mauss “The Gift” or whatever study you had in mind just doesn’t help me with answers to how one generation ago I was a neighbor, but now I’ve become a stranger who might be a poisoner. As for the implicit demand that people reciprocate a gift — reciprocal relationships are what it means to be a neighbor or a friend. In the situation I described the feared ultimate reciprocation I ask for as a neighbor is just that they be my neighbors and not strangers. The gift was nothing more than a way to meet them and let them know I was their neighbor — something I went to lengths to explain each time. How is that really so scary?

        The point of my story is to suggest there are reasons besides a time crunch that people like the Calculus teacher have turned their concerns inward toward their family and any friends they already have. Sustainability is predicated on the existence of a community or at least a tendency to form communities. Our broken communities coupled with our broken politics work to turn people from sustainability to resilience.

        1. John Merryman

          All those organic reciprocal connections have been replaced by global monetary systems, atomizing the people. While there is an explicit intent by those running the financial system to use it for rent extraction, there are much deeper conceptual issues at work.
          For example, our primary spiritual model in the west is monotheism, yet, logically, a spiritual absolute would be the essence from which we rise, not an ideal from which we fell. That raw sense of being, running through all sentient creatures and possibly even those organisms not designed for locomotion.
          Meanwhile a top down theology serves to empower the power structure, over inter social activity.
          Now biology does treat individuals as expendable and so there is a natural tendency of groups to organize against forces inimical to them, yet life feeds on itself, predator and prey, to a baby nursing.
          As such, the banking system has metastasized into a giant siphon and is extracting more value than it creates. There was a time when government was private as well, called monarchy. When it became more trouble than it was worth, it took several centuries to finally replace with government as semi effective public trust. When the system does break down, humanity will start moving in the direction of making the financial circulatory system a public function as well and this will likely entail local voucher systems, drawing communities back together.
          So, not to go too far off topic, but it all ties together, big and local picture.

        2. kareninca

          hi James – I grew up in a rural suburb in the 70s, where we knew our neighbors and kids played together outside. Now I live in a condo association in California with 82 units. We’ve been here 19 years, but for many years now I have known many of my neighbors, and we help one another out in various ways (and it is true that some of them have no interest and will never have any interest in all this). I don’t want to be mean, but you seem to have a very moralistic view of this topic, which never helps (this may be due to your reasonably hurt feelings, however). Also, you seem to be oblivious to some social nuances here. For instance, you say “I tendered my first gift with no strings” – but that isn’t really true – the gift had enormous strings attached, and the people you approached could sense that. And you come off as being excessively interested in the political aspects of it all, which doesn’t help with getting to know actual individuals. I was most definitely not suggesting that you read popular sociology/anthropology books like Bowling Alone; I meant you should read the real academic stuff, not the politicized popularizations, if you want to have an understanding of reciprocal social interactions.
          If it turns out that you really can’t manage to get to know your present neighbors, for whatever reason, perhaps you should consider an intentional community; there are a surprising number of them out there. There you would have a group of people who were antecedently committed to knowing one another well, and you wouldn’t have to flail about doing it all on your own. There are Christian communities, prepper communities (people make fun of preppers but they are often very into community) and a whole gamut of other ones that might suit you better. Yes, I know that one shouldn’t need to “join” a community to get a community, but if it is what you actually want and you can’t get it otherwise that is what you should do, rather than moralizing about how you shouldn’t have to.

          1. Jeremy Grimm

            Woh! I need to write more carefully if I seem moralizing or political. I admit that I am, but that’s beside the point.

            I’m not sure what enormous strings came attached to my gifts. My grandpa used to share what he grew — whatever he and his counldn’t eat. He and my grandma hated to see things wasted — it’s a Depression Era thing. I guess I am too much like them. I hate to waste food. I offered mainly to avoid waste — but hoping to evoke some interest in at least a few people.

            I must confess I’m not looking for community as you suggest. I simply expected it, given my memories of how my Grandpa went to his neighbors to share Avocados and oranges, and the too many tomatoes that came out of his garden. The strings attached to his gifts, as were attached to mine, are nothing more than that the the person accepting the gift might benefit from it and recognize me enough to smile and say Hi! returning my smile and greeting — next time we ran into each other. If those are enormous strings of reciprocation I guess I have lost all sense of proportion. Anyway — experiment tried and failed and not worth repetition. The lost are lost — moralizing much? — like Popeye “I am what I am.” I miss the old ways. I cannot understand or fit in with today — and I’m too lazy or too damn proud to start joining communities to find the sense of community lost. I am a “loner.” However, community is a necessary ingredient in both sustainability and resilience — hence their presence in this discussion.

            My next move, — if I remain at my present location long enough — will be to approach a local food bank and ask them what sort of dealings they have with the Co-Op located in their town. I hope they have long and established ties with the Co-Op — but I harbor doubts. The local Church that runs this food bank could easily purchase quantities of popular items (not leeks) using money from their parishioners. For example, a parishioner could purchase a bag of 45 ears of very sweet corn for a couple of bucks more than the same price the local Farmer’s market or vegetable stand charges for a dozen ears (45 ears for $12 versus 70 cents per ear at a local vegetable stand — and both sweet and crisp enough to make you cry. They could offer a parishioner a “real deal” on the price of produce while providing much fresher and much more tasty fruits and vegetables. What was left in the bag could be handed out to those who came for help with their food needs.

            I should point out again that the Co-Op I’ve been tauting is not a “Farmer’s Market”. It is a true wholesale Co-Op (I have a hunch their prices are higher than the commercial market really supports.) I attended the yearly meeting of the Co-Op as one of the only, I suspect the only, “buyers” represented. The Co-Op beat up their leader for not locating more LARGE markets for their produce — markets I believe that their prices and the pre-existing contracts the larger outlets had with their chosen suppliers made unavailable.) So sit I, an outsider, and fully held to be ignorant of what’s what. But it doesn’t take that much wisdom to see the problems here or too soon coming for this Co-Op.

            I’m not sure what academic literature you would have me read. Any specific suggestions would be appreciated. I learned my anthropology and sociology watching my grandpa. I don’t know what the academics have over my grandpa but I do have an open and hungry mind.

            Finally don’t get me wrong — I appreciate your comments and suggestions and will continue to regard and contemplate them. I am naturally argumentative and love a good argument whether I win or lose, and who cares anyway — I truly enjoy the exchange of ideas.

            1. kareninca

              Well, our grandparents (my paternal ones were similar to yours) came from rural backgrounds. Behaviors and expectations are very different in rural areas. You have joined the rootless masses by moving to an urban/suburban area for opportunity and have thereby made your choice whether you knew it or not. In rural areas, people know their neighbors because they are around them all the time and there are no other options. In suburban areas, people have choices; they are accustomed to rejecting other people. Suburban and urban areas are full of people who have actively moved away from family members; they have severed ties and think that is just fine to sever ties. It is like two different universes. It is funny that you have been away from your grandparents’ world for so long, and then just expected it to pop up again when you wanted it. I would never expect that – what I expect from my friendly neighbors is very limited. I know that if I want what you are describing I would have to move back to my hometown (population 5000), or somewhere similar, and understand that I would have to meet the innumerable expectations that I would find there (e.g. joining a church); there is no free lunch.
              You may say – “but even in the suburbs, there used to be community!” Well, that was when women stayed home. Women are great at hanging out and creating social networks when they don’t work for money. That is gone now.
              As a “project” your Coop idea sounds interesting. But the problem about going into an existing organization is that everyone already has set ways of doing things. You may find yourself facing all sorts of irrational resistance.
              I’ll ask my father (retired social psych prof) what specific area of soc/anthro you should look at. I am guessing the literature on peasant societies. The thing is though, I’m not sure exactly what your goal is. You seem to want community, but you don’t. You seem to want a useful project, but you’re looking at something that could be very hard to finesse. Anyway, per my post below, I think that an even better project would be to start an organization for young men like your son.

  33. JTFaraday

    “But Lebo’s reading is based on a sense that individuals are pulling in their focus to me, mine, and my family. It’s reminiscent of a conversation I had with a friend who is the ex-wife of a billionaire, now living modestly and teaching calculus as an adjunct at a local college. She said:

    ‘I can’t get concerned any more about tragedies. We have billions of people living on this planet who are going to die because it can’t support them. I used to care about people dying in Guatemala but now I think that saving lives now means more deaths later. I know it sounds selfish but I’ve decided to care about science and my family and not much else.’

    I wonder how widely her sort of thinking is shared.”

    I think it’s the only thing anyone is allowed to think. Notice the shrinking horizons in HRC’s 2008 and 2016 campaign announcements:

  34. Kurt Sperry

    Prepping and doomer stockpiling make about as much sense as a strategy against systemic collapse as gated communities do as an answer to crime. And both are driven by the same delusional, smug and immoral “screw everyone else, I got my act together” triumphalism. Sure, do permaculture, grow some veggies in the yard or put in a cistern, why not? But withdrawing from society to “fend for ourselves” is no answer to anything. It’s just an excuse to ineffectually disengage from civic life and live in a disempowered, self-centered fantasy world.

    1. kareninca

      I don’t see “screw you I’ve got mine” triumphalism in those behaviors. I see fear. These are people who have given up on trying to “engage in civic life” because doing so has not gotten them what they feel they need, and they think they will be deserted in their time of desperation (which they would be). Telling them that they should engage in politics is to some degree telling them to eat cake; like the lady teaching calculus, they are giving up in exhaustion and turning inwards. It takes time and resources to keep up the political fight, and people have less and less of those things. I don’t think that gated communities or prepping (or communes practicing permaculture for that matter) will save anyone, but I don’t despise people for taking those routes out of desperation.

    2. WindyCity

      Hear, hear.

      Erecting fortresses to fend off doomsday won’t work. The forces of disunity and environmental collapse won’t ignore homes with solar panels, cisterns, fences, gardens, an arms locker, and storm shelters. If civilization collapses, the pyroclastic avalanche of destruction will sweep us all away. I would also argue that those who grasp the current danger have a moral obligation to reach out, talk to their friends and neighbors, help to educate the populace about the problems and help organize a community response. All of us need to organize to fight the powerful socioeconomic forces dragging us toward the precipice. I don’t think that building a fortress is wrong, necessarily, so long as it’s not accompanied by the delusion that it will accomplish much if the worst comes to pass. Our only real hope is to seize back the reins of democratic power and call a halt to the despoliation of our planet. Can we do it? Yes. Will we? That’s unanswerable at present.

    3. Stephanie

      At least two of the “stock piler” blogs I’ve followed over the years have listed “long term unemployment” and “stealth inflation” as two of the crises that inspired them to go hard core into food storage, and almost every food storage blog I’ve followed has overlapping entries on gardening, sourcing cheap food, herbal/alternative medicine (because no insurance), diet-as-healthcare (because the medical system has no answers for them or their children), etc. To some extent, yes, they”got” because they’ve got pressure canners and dehydrators, and on most of the entries there seems to be a hope that someday it will get better, and sometimes it actually does. Her husband gets a job or her career in MLM takes off. On others, especially those with long-term health issues, one gets the feeling that the “crisis” for the writer is permanent.

  35. kareninca

    Not actually dying like a dog in the immediately foreseeable future is the new black.

    re the lady who teaches calculus – yes, I have a neighbor like that. She used to be into all sorts of pro-social things (many of which I thought were stupid and based on wishful thinking and pointless, but that’s a matter of debate). She has told me that now she feels she just has to focus on keeping her family okay; she can’t do any more than that. She’s not really telling the truth, since I can see that she still tries to be pro-social, but the thing is that that is her new, explicit mind-set.

    1. jrs

      I don’t think people raising minor kids and especially young kids as every really being natural activists or even heavily into volunteer activities anyway except if they don’t work, but not otherwise, it’s just too busy. And this goes triple if they are *single* parents, it’s an overwhelming task to raise and support kid(s) as a single parent. Then that leaves? The young who haven’t had kids yet, the childfree, those whose kids are no longer minors, some stay at home parents do volunteering though they won’t be the one’s arrested at protests probably.

      1. kareninca

        She is married, doesn’t work outside the home, and her two kids are teenagers. She’s worn down anyway, and turning inwards anyway. She would be a prime person to “engage”, but she is just now dropping out of engaging out of a sense of hopelessness and the felt need to tend her own. I think a lot of it is due to Obama. She really believed (incredible to me, but true), that he would usher in great change. The reality of what he is and what he is doing has simply stunned her.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          Truth be told I believed in Obama too in 2008. Foolish me! Worse still, I was fooled twice, believing he was the lesser of two evils. Now comes Hillary — I’ll not be fooled again.

  36. Old Dawg

    Been there, done that – more than once.

    I’ve owned two homey farmsteads in the US that the state/local government[s] annexed, zoned, rezoned, and ultimately taxed me for until I gave up. Sold them off. I tried, but they wouldn’t leave me or my bank account or my property alone.

    Now I live in a cheap crappy apartment. I can’t grow food here or collect water in a rain barrel. My water comes from the city with a bill. I pay the bill they leave me alone. I buy food at the supermarket. I’m not investing my savings on insulation or energy efficient appliances. I’m saving money hand over fist.

    I don’t have a car, the big green bus takes me where I need to go for $2.50. I don’t have a cell phone, smart or dumb – so don’t call me when I’m not home. Landline is $30 a month, free long distance.

    Living like this is the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I’m stashing cash like crazy. My money, minimizing what the government can clip me for.

    If shit all falls apart I’ll take my money and leave, that simple. If the landlord raises the rent I’ll move. It’s the free-est I’ve been since I was 17, broke, and homeless.

    I am now 62.

    1. jrs

      I doubt anything is that simple. Take the money and leave and what be a citizen elsewhere? It’s possible, but then the U.S. government will tax you to death for leaving is my understanding, or maybe that’s only if you have significant money.

  37. Old Dawg

    It’s interesting you would say that, Lambert. I learned to live the way the natives got by when we were working overseas in the 2000’s. It stuck.

    And those people had survived two world wars, a revolution, two currency meltdowns, and the collapse of the Soviet Union. I learned a lot from them about how much I really don’t need and how much the government will steal if they think you have it to take.

    I learned from the toughest people on earth. I’m a convert.

  38. Knute Rife

    I’ll throw my completely non-scientific sampling in here, namely my kids (ages 16-27) and their friends (mid teens to early 30s). They may be young, but they see Trouble with a capital T ahead, no way to avoid it, and nothing in their lives preparing them for it. They come to me for advice, and I know they aren’t buying the old shibboleths about getting an education and finding a steady job. Jobs are shifting sand; finding a job, a company, or even an industry that will be around in five years is about like hitting the lottery. They don’t trust education, and with good reason. They can see that the schools have no idea what they’re preparing students for and are floundering almost as badly as the stream of graduates coming off the assembly line and into part-time stocking positions at Walmart. Go into debt to get training. If you’re lucky, you find a real job, but it doesn’t last. Then you get retrained and pile up more debt. It’s a scam. You owe your soul to the post-modern company store. That kind of constant scrambling doesn’t leave a lot of room for philosophical ruminations. It isn’t a sense of “I got mine”; it’s a sense of “How am I going to survive?”

    There is also a decided futility to political engagement. My oldest was very involved in politics, as was I at one time. She was active in Occupy Wall Street and so on. Then she realized, as did I years ago, that all this activity accomplished nothing other than putting you on the radar of various security agencies. It was all just a diversion, substantively of little difference from the Super Bowl or American Idol. It’s a diversion from identifying manageable issues, such as how you personally are going to get through the next ten years, and solving them. It’s also a diversion from methods that might actually be effective. It reminds me of Lenin’s comment about how the revolution couldn’t happen in Germany because, when it came time to storm the railroads, everyone would queue up for tickets. Street theater and everyone joining hands around a bonfire and singing “Kumbaya” accomplishes nothing. Unless the bonfire is a bankster’s house.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      My completely non-scientific sampling matches yours. The one thing my kids learned from junior high and high school was to hate school. As a special bonus they taught my son to hate reading. Both left high school without any particular interests and I couldn’t suggest anything that would lead to employment for more than a limited time and nothing they wanted to do. I took them to see my work when they were kids. They both decided they didn’t want anything to do with working eight hours a day in a windowless office pushing papers and excruciatingly dull documents around (I didn’t explain my job in those terms — I just showed them what I did and explained what it involved. They formed their own opinion about the documents.)

      My daughter is working as a coffee barista and though she likes her job and the contact with people — she is making so little money she is constantly constrained in her activities and time. It took her a year or so to get over the excitement of living on her own and supporting herself but as she gets older she’s become aware of her limited future prospects. She still has modest dreams, but they all lie outside of work — and no, landing a good husband to support her isn’t one of those dreams.

      Unlike your daughter, my daughter remained strangely apolitical although that started to change recently. She decided she needs to become more aware of what’s happening in the world around her. The unrest in Baltimore triggered her new interest. As she learns about our situation her response is indignation and anger. I sympathize with those emotions but work hard to curb her impulse to “grab a brick.” When my kids were little I used to sing in the car. I don’t know many songs. I sang an old song I heard on one of my dad’s Joan Baez records from the 60’s — “Donna Donna.” The other day I tried to remind her of the lyrics and suggested what they meant. She agrees with me that things are getting closer and closer to a breaking point. I constantly suggest that she remember that and get out so she doesn’t get caught up in it. But I have trouble suggesting where to get out to. She’s already talking vaguely about leaving the country. I suggested getting out of urban areas and close to the Northern border in the East or perhaps better somewhere in the West.

      My son has had a mental breakdown. I attribute this, at least part, to his growing understanding of just how bad things could be for him outside our little home and what few choices and opportunities he had with or without more school. He ended up shutting himself in his room and playing video games endlessly — what the Japanese call a Hikikomori. This lead in turn to his further mental breakdown eventually resulting in actions that placed him into the not so loving care of my State.

      1. jonboinAR

        I’m terribly sorry for your son and for you as his father. I had a little bit of a breakdown as a young man, got in a state where I was going round and round in my mind and couldn’t function. For me, I think I was able to help myself by focusing on working. I got into construction, easy to do in the ’70’s, maybe not so easy now, and devoted my 8 hours a day to concentrating and focusing on the tasks assigned me. Gradually the out of control spinning in my head went away and I became able to function all through my daily life. I can’t tell you if it was my work “therapy” or just time that did it, or if my method would work for anyone else at all, so take it for what it’s worth.

      2. kareninca

        I’m very, very sorry about your son. You sound like a wonderful dad who has tried incredibly hard. Things are especially difficult for boys now, and men.

      3. Jeremy Grimm

        I am sorry. I wasn’t trying to solicit sympathy — though I do appreciate it. A certain amount of insanity seems to run in my family (I hope my comments don’t reflect that tendency). I am concerned that Hikikomori are not a purely Japanese, Korean, Chinese or Italian problem. I am also concerned that mental health issues are becoming more prevalent in response to the decline in our economy, our society — and the future we can all expect to experience — all too soon. Thinking and commenting about these things here, helps me. For my son, things are what they are. I hope my exhibitionism (again — sorry!) helps others who see similar problems in our young men — and be aware all Hikikomori are NOT men. I put myself in my son’s place and staying in my room playing video games seems more and more rational given what I see, learn and experience of today’s world. I am starting to worry that commenting here is my form of playing video games and staying in my room. Unlike my son, I have made efforts to find society and though few, I have made good friends with people I respect. I worry that among other concerns, our country may see an unpleasant upsurge in insanity in our susceptible young. [I believe insanity is a tendency rather than a given outcome. Some of us are more susceptible to the Siren’s song of insanity. I fear today’s society gives that Siren a bull-horn.]

        Anyway — game on and worry for my daughter too, and all our young people starting into this inhospitable world of the 21st Century. It’s not what I intended or hoped to pass on to my children. So — remember to ask, “How are the children?”

        1. jrs

          If your daughter is approaching 30 and barista then yea I can’t see the economic opportunities being there (if she’s just mid 20s or something, time is still overwhelmingly on her side in terms of changing career – it can still be at 30 but I can see getting scared). On the other hand barista is social job, maybe she will meet a nice husband, I don’t know about rich though :). In windowless office pushing documents around with 50 hour weeks or where ever the money actually is, there’s just alienation.

          I think unless your very psychologically well adjusted in the first place it’s very easy to end up in a bad place one way or other in this fairly hostile social and economic environment we live in.

        2. kareninca

          hi Jeremy – when I was growing up in the 70s, males had the upper hand, both in the job market and in relationships. I have been watching things shift ever since, and now females have the upper hand in an extreme way, in your son’s generation. They really don’t need males, and the males will not get the ongoing lifelong tending and nurturing that in generations gone by they could often count on. It’s a version of the “missing men” problem of Victorian England, when so many of the men had been killed in wars that women couldn’t find anyone (and the same thing happened in England after the wars of the 20th century). Add to that the lack of jobs, and there is nothing out there for boys now. The few jobs there are are more suited to “compliant” females. I decided not to have kids, so I don’t know why I have read so many articles about the problems Japanese and American boys have; I guess I just feel bad about it and wonder what can be done. It’s a worldwide thing; in Asia there are so few females since they are aborted (I feel rather less sympathy for that situation, although admittedly it is not the fault of the boys who are born instead).

          If I had a son I would start a youth league with live-on camps and farms, and have it be something like the Boy Scouts except that one could be in it all one’s life if one wanted. I’d get the money from some Silicon Valley venture capitalist; they have sons too. There are a lot of parents in your situation; you could join together to get this going; it is more important than sharing veggies with neighbors. Start a nonprofit and start looking at camp and farm sites and start hiring social scientists. I’ve always thought the Catskills would be a great locale for something like that, although there could be one in each of several geographic regions.

          I think it’s a mistake for you to focus on “insanity,” either in your son or in your family or in the nation. Yes, suicide rates have gone up a lot since 2008. But a whole lot about how “insane” someone goes, depends on the situation they are in, rather than what is innate in them. You need to create a decent alternative “situation” for your son, and one that is presented to society as a “normal” situation, like the league I’m suggesting. Sorry to dump on you the idea for such a monster project, but I have been thinking about it a lot over the last five or so years.

          1. Jeremy Grimm

            I appreciate your suggestion and our exchanges of ideas. I hope I’m not getting too personal — I regret that you chose not have children. We need the best to remain in our gene pools — but it was your choice and I honor that.

            I like your idea of a youth league with live-on camps and farms. It fits nicely with many of the ideas of resilience discussed in this posting and fits my own ideas for what I might want for myself and hope to leave behind when my time comes. My sister lives in Oneonta, New York and I spent a happy and memorable year living in Charlotte, Vermont. I feel longings when Lambert describes the life and progress of his garden in Maine. Truth be told — I am two generations and really not that far from the dirt farmer who was my great grandpa in Gordon, Texas. I was and am an engineer but I have rich black dirt in my blood.

            My sister and a brother took Ag. in high school and both of them had projects with a lasting impact on my family. My brother raised a hog and my sister raised chickens and worked with my mom to raise a couple of nanny goats.

            Nothing could reduce the anxiety of modern work-life better than the realities of agriculture and animal husbandry. When you know the animal you kill and eat, it gives you a whole different kind of respect and reverence than picking up a tray meat in the supermarket. When my Muslim friend at work explained Halal meats to me I found I already knew what it meant but lacked the word.

            I am soon to be retired — ready or not — like it or not. I have some savings that may be adequate to get a start on the kind of camp/cooperative living situation you postulate. However, as an engineer I feel driven to bring more — agriculture and animal husbandry is a key skill for future life. But we have a much richer inheritance to carry forward and share with the future.

            I don’t have much breadth to my vision at this point — but continue to think and learn. We inherited unmeasurable riches of plant and animal invention gathered and perfected over millennia. But we also have technical and scientific knowledge, difficult — perhaps impossible to reacquire. I desire a way to carry that knowledge forward too.

            I am lazy and see no path. I will think about your suggestions and ideas and my own, and try to find ways for a “club: such as you suggest. I would like to discover a way to make it self-supporting and expansionary — like an old-time Church rather than a business. In this, I believe I have greater need for philosophers than for social scientists but I will remain of an open mind.

            1. kareninca

              I really hope you will do this, but not on your own dime. Or only partly on your own dime. This is a major social problem; there is no reason a philanthropist shouldn’t be involved. A huge number of young men are going to go straight down in terrible ways if something like this isn’t made very broadly available. I do think TPTB are trying to do a (stupid, wasteful) version of this by having everyone go to college on forgivable loans, but that really is not the answer. The important thing is that the league be designed so that men don’t have to age out of it; it has to be a permanent haven. I take it you’ve read Frost’s “Death of the Hired Man.”

              Here’s a way to make it interesting to a tech philanthropist. Along with the appeal to the needs of young (and then later not so young) men, you can point out that these camps could have a “bring tech to rural areas” side. I’m not a big fan of tech, but if they had that aspect then the set-up might not be so alien to young men who were used to it. It’s nice to do things on a shoe-string, but time is of the essence here; with enough money and the logistical support a philanthropist could come up with, you could get it going a lot faster and help many more men.

              I am absolutely desperately relieved that my husband and I decided not to have kids (so is he). I worry enough about other people’s kids; the thought of worrying about ones I was terribly attached to is just appalling..

  39. Mattie

    The switch to Resiliency is, in my book, smart, honest and long overdue. Don’t go too 60,000 ft on this. Every infrastructure manager, every federal agency, every banker – has been conferencing “Resiliency” for 3 years.

    Think, for example, about how to manage the NYC subway system and protect the billions of dollars of infrastructure that supports NYC’s economic engine on a daily basis. Resiliency is about the nuts and bolts of risk management. Plain and simple. It’s about informing your approach to asset management and prioritizing investment decision-making. What are the known vulnerabilities (i.e. flooding, pandemic, terrorism, etc.), and how to harden assets and mitigate damages that can’t be completely avoided? That’s what resiliency is about.

    It’s like life.

    In my book, “Sustainability” never really made sense. It was the brainchild of Kyoto architects (e.g., developing country harvard-educated oligarchs) looking for a way to leverage UNEP-type assistance for CapNTrade schemes that would monetize environmental resources. In the forest example, the Dutch (and other early buyer-ins) have, by now all these years later, accumulated enough embarrassing data to demonstrate that these schemes were just that – schemes (of course, we also have Google Earth to prove that paid-for, CapNtraded, supposedly protected forests, have been deforested for Chinese timber merchants). The problem is that both sustainability and resiliency are policy concepts which presume that certain things – the environment, species, culture – are “valuable”. “Sustainability” falters because it focuses on natural resources of little “value” to the human species except through conversion to “valuable” capital assets – like the NYC MTA – which must be protected via “Resiliency” strategies.

    1. washunate

      What good are the nuts and bolts of the NYC subway system if NATO launches a nuclear assault on Russia or climate change raises sea levels on the eastern seaboard?

      But perhaps more to the point, I’d offer a different view of sustainability. We humans rather like natural resources such as wilderness areas and wildlife and clean air and clean water and so forth. It’s the existing paradigm that doesn’t value such resources properly.

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