Jan 21 2011

Has collapse already arrived?

Kal @ 12:32

 

Lots of food for thought in the latest post from John Michael Greer, The Onset of Catabolic Collapse.

Empires are expensive:

That America is a prime candidate for catabolic collapse seems tolerably clear at this point, though I’m sure plenty of people can find reasons to argue with that assessment. It’s considered impolite to talk about America’s empire nowadays, but the US troops currently garrisoned in 140 countries around the world are not there for their health, after all, and it requires a breathtaking suspension of disbelief to insist that this global military presence has nothing to do with the fact that the 5% of our species that live in this country use around a quarter of the world’s total energy production and around a third of its raw materials and industrial products. The United States has an empire, then, and it’s become an extraordinarily expensive empire to maintain; the fact that the US spends as much money on its military annually as all the other nations on Earth put together is only one measure of the maintenance cost involved.

The post posits that our collapse began in 1974, with the first respite started a few years later:

That breathing space ended in 2008. At this point, I’d suggest, we’re in the early stages of a second and probably more severe round of catabolism here in America, and throughout Europe as well. What happened to the industrial working class in the 1970s is now happening to a very broad swath of the middle class, as jobs evaporate, public services are slashed, and half a dozen states stumble down the slope that will turn them into the Rust Belt equivalents of the early 21st century. Exactly what will happen as that process continues is anybody’s guess, but it’s unlikely to end as soon as the round of catabolism in the 1970s, and it may very well cut deeper; neither we nor Britain nor any other of our close allies has a big new petroleum reserve just waiting to be tapped, after all.


It’s crucial to remember, though, that catabolism is a response to crisis and at least in the short term, much more often than not, an effective response. The fact that we’re moving into the second stage of our society’s long descent into catabolic collapse doesn’t mean that America will fall apart in the next decade or so; quite the contrary, it strongly suggests that America will not fall apart this time around. As the current round of catabolism picks up speed, a great many jobs will go away, and most of them will never return; a great many people who depend on those jobs will descend into poverty, and most of them will never rise back out of it; much of the familiar fabric of life in America as it’s been lived in recent decades will be shredded beyond repair, and new and far less lavish patterns will emerge instead; outside the narrowing circle of the privileged classes, even those who maintain relative affluence will be making do with much less than they or their equivalents do today. All these are ways that a society in decline successfully adapts to the contraction of its economic base and the mismatch between available resources and maintenance costs.

Read the whole article and see if you agree.

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Category: Sustainability | Resource Depletion | Economics
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