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The Five Stages of Collapse
December 3, 2008 8:08 AM   Subscribe

Second Great Depression? We should be so lucky. Or so Dmitry Orlov says. Orlov, an engineer who watched the collapse of the Soviet Union, argues that the United States is well into a similar process of collapse. In Orlov's model, collapse is divided into five stages: financial, commercial, political, social and cultural. The first one is currently happening, and the next two are guaranteed to follow; as for cultural collapse, that happened a long time ago, but people were to narcotised by consumerism to notice. And things look set to get very, very dire indeed, with runaway hyperinflation, shortages, the breakdown of political institutions, the fragmentation of the US, and, if the "social collapse" stage is reached, roaming gangs and ethnic cleansing.
posted by acb (65 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am an engineer, and so I naturally tended to look for physical explanations for this process, as opposed to economic, political, or cultural ones

I'm not sure I'm gonna make it past this right here, but I'll give it a shot.
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:14 AM on December 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


If commercial and political collapse are guaranteed to follow financial collapse, why are they separate stages?
posted by DU at 8:17 AM on December 3, 2008


Those wacky Russkies.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:17 AM on December 3, 2008


I am unfamiliar with Energy Bulletin; does it usually begin its analyses of collapsing civilizations with "Hello, everyone!"?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:17 AM on December 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


Sure, engineers from completely different cultures are well-qualified to comment on the inevitability of the cultural and economic collapse of another culture with a completely different characteristics, ethnic and cultural history.

Now bridges and buildings, perhaps.
posted by sfts2 at 8:18 AM on December 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


What is happening to the United States now is broadly similar, with certain polarities reversed.

So, the United States is exactly the same, only opposite. Not really scintillating analysis here.
posted by Eekacat at 8:19 AM on December 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


New England, California, and the Pacific Northwest might decide to go their separate ways.

Sweet! California has, like, 80% of the US' leafy green growing capacity. Wait 'til those lettuce tariffs kick in baby!

But seriously, folks, good ol' Cascadia with California thrown in for good measure would be one AWESOME country. I am not completely seeing the problem here.
posted by GuyZero at 8:20 AM on December 3, 2008


If this kind of story tickles your doom bone, you'll want to visit Jim "The Long Emergency" Kunstler's Clusterfuck Nation blog - where I was first exposed to Comrade Orlov's POV.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:21 AM on December 3, 2008


I thought periodic collapse and rebuilding was the idea.
posted by swift at 8:22 AM on December 3, 2008


But seriously, folks, good ol' Cascadia with California thrown in for good measure would be one AWESOME country. I am not completely seeing the problem here.

The warlord theocracies of the south/midwest inheriting most of the US's nukes and a belief that LA and SF are Sodom and Gomorrah?
posted by acb at 8:22 AM on December 3, 2008


OK, after reading that Cascadia page, let's not put that guy in charge. We don't need any $2 billion "mind-control" lawsuits.
posted by GuyZero at 8:22 AM on December 3, 2008


If there's one thing I learned from Star Trek, it's that engineers are always wanting to reverse the polarities on stuff.
Also, it never works
posted by rocket88 at 8:24 AM on December 3, 2008 [9 favorites]


The warlord theocracies of the south/midwest inheriting most of the US's nukes and a belief that LA and SF are Sodom and Gomorrah?

Once the pellagra kicks in we'll see what happens.
posted by GuyZero at 8:24 AM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


That first line, where have I heard that before? Oh, right, Dr. Nick Riviera! Hi, Doctor Orlov!
posted by pullayup at 8:26 AM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


I watched the Soviet Union collapse, and, since I am also familiar with the details of the situation in the United States, I can make comparisons between these two failed superpowers.

I've seen rockets take off, and since I am familiar with planes, I can build a space shuttle.
posted by wayofthedodo at 8:28 AM on December 3, 2008 [12 favorites]


If there's one thing I learned from Star Trek, it's that engineers are always wanting to reverse the polarities on stuff. Also, it never works.

If you calculate Uhura's failure rate at contacting whoever she was supposed to contact, it's clear she was unqualified for her position.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:30 AM on December 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


I really wish these assholes would stop trying to predict the future. No one's excited about the inevitable hardships America's about to face, but as sfts2 points out this man is no way qualified to make this assessment. I don't think anyone's qualified to predict the future in as much detail as this mutha fucka goes into, especially not an engineer from Putinland. Wake me up when we're done with DOOMGLOOMfilter.
posted by andruwjones26 at 8:30 AM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Part of me is easily amused by how many Russian pundits are enjoying their time in the sun predicting the imminent demise of the American Empire. And part of me is realizing how cringeworthy American pundits sounded to Russian ears in the late 80s.
posted by ardgedee at 8:37 AM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


So what you're saying is, some random dude had a thought about something?

But this guy's an "engineer" so he must be smart, I suppose.
posted by delmoi at 8:37 AM on December 3, 2008


as for cultural collapse, that happened a long time ago...

Hah! Obviously this guy thinks Damien Hirst is an American. Fool.
posted by R. Mutt at 8:45 AM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


At least the fundamentals of our economy are strong.
posted by yeti at 8:46 AM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


historically, the (fastest?) way out of a debt super-cycle is default (or quasi-default, i.e. inflation, currency depreciation) and then prepare for war or the moral equivalent of such.

btw re: tight coupling and flexibility...

Economies that primarily use equity finance are more stable than those that primarily use debt finance. It becomes easier to have a cascade of failure the greater the overall debt burden is on the system. So, the total debt level has a major impact on the behavior of the economy. In 1929, total debt to GDP was 280%. By 1941, that level was 160% or so, where it stayed (more or less) until 1985.

After that, debt to GDP moved up parabolically to 360% by 2007, and now we find ourselves in the soup in two ways: 1) total level of debt, 2) complexity of debt because of securitization and to a lesser extent, derivatives.

Why did the depression end around 1941? [E]nough debt had been paid down or written off, and loans could be made to good borrowers, but only enough that financial sector would grow slowly (not faster than GDP).

The answer today, in my opinion, is that we need expedited procedures for bankruptcy to reset the system, getting lenders to compromise with borrowers, and bring down the debt to GDP ratio. I don’t think the present programs will work, and they may actually prolong the crisis, a la Japan. In my opinion, we won’t see significant economic growth until the debt to GDP ratio falls into the 150-200% range.

[cf. How Japan (eventually) Got Financial Reform Right, altho i wonder if there might be more deeper issues at play*]

so what does that mean? at least in the medium term, more aggressive write offs** and gov't recapitalisation/nationalisation, which no one (as yet) has been willing to tackle head on, altho RBS is a start; we'll see if the new team (of rivals) is up for it...

---
* or as lewis sez: you could trace the biggest financial crisis in the history of the world back to a decision he had made. John Gutfreund did violence to the Wall Street social order—and got himself dubbed the King of Wall Street—when he turned Salomon Brothers from a private partnership into Wall Street’s first public corporation... they transferred the ultimate financial risk from themselves to their shareholders... From that moment, though, the Wall Street firm became a black box. The shareholders who financed the risks had no real understanding of what the risk takers were doing, and as the risk-taking grew ever more complex, their understanding diminished. The moment Salomon Brothers demonstrated the potential gains to be had by the investment bank as public corporation, the psychological foundations of Wall Street shifted from trust to blind faith.

** or as blessed blog saint tanta sed (may her soul eternally RIP): for every asset that banks unloaded on the government, the chief executives should be required to explain "why they acquired or originated this asset to begin with, what’s really wrong with it in detail, what they have learned from this experience, and what steps they are taking to make sure it never happens again."
posted by kliuless at 8:57 AM on December 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


Wow, those Russians sure have a chip on their shoulder, don't they? I wonder if deep down, they believe it was the luck of the draw and the US would be in the same position if the cosmic dice were rolled again. How very Russian.

In any case, after years of being the stepchild of the family who the cool family members make fun of, the Midwest is going take you guys over. We refine all your oil, grow your food and allow safe air passage. No longer, anyone trying to make the LA<>NY will have to land in Omaha and take a bus to Kansas City to resume their trip. Why? Well you'll be taking the "Fly-Over Freeway" of course! Yeah not so fucking funny anymore is it? It'll cost $20 to ride the bus, plus a $40 "carbon tax" and then a $10 transit fee. There will be stops every hour for restroom breaks and, of course, a plethora of fast food places serving you at a 10% premium.

Oh, sure there will be discontent in 2016 years as many Midwestern moms finally finish up the last season Sex in the City that has been running in syndication. Watch as we storm troop in to Manhattan and take everything south of Central Park as our "green zone," using a capture Carrie Bradshaw and company to air episodes year long! Ah ha ha ha ha! We're turning all the colleges in Boston into one big state school, with a good basketball but a mediocre football team, and no one will even care about the academics!

Next time you see some of us, on the outskirts of your territory, in sweatpants in Las Vegas or you might catch a glimpse of a Ford F450 in the southern part of Illinois, know this, we are not the heartland but the barbarians at the gate!
posted by geoff. at 9:06 AM on December 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


Debate all you want play it smart and buy a glock
posted by halekon at 9:08 AM on December 3, 2008


I had been meaning to put together a post on Orlov along with the other other Russian preaching the collapse of the US, Igor Pagarin. I was beaten to the punch.

Closing the Collapse Gap was my first introduction to Orlov. It details differences the differences between the USSR and the US and argues that the characteristics of Russian society were much better toward surviving an economic collapse; Russian 'make it work' mentality vs. American 'ain't worth fixing' consumerism and such.
posted by daHIFI at 9:10 AM on December 3, 2008


Everyone has a pet goat to pin the economic downturn on - union workers, peak oil, illuminati bankers consolidating their deathgrip, and it always fits perfectly into one's preferred narrative. Funny how that is.
posted by fleetmouse at 9:14 AM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


From what I've read, America had a "make it work" mentality, well until manufactured crap became to cheap to be worth fixing. Surely once the Chinese factories don't accept dollars and/or there isn't enough oil to ship the stuff over, Americans will once again adapt to making do and mending. We're already seeing a cultural shift towards it in the maker/crafter movements.
posted by acb at 9:15 AM on December 3, 2008


This isn't so much prediction as wishful thinking.
posted by WPW at 9:22 AM on December 3, 2008


The Soviet Union was patched together by force of several nations speaking different languages and practicing different cultures, most of whom were enjoying life outside of Imperial Russia just fine, thank you very much. Those things can go their separate ways. California won't.

Plus, the USSR was always rickety. Stalin took food from starving peasants to sell overseas in order to afford new tanks. Later on, it was petroleum. Early on, because of the threat of Terror, information from the bottom was never accurate when it got to the top. This was never going to be viable.

The political structure depended on personalities wedding party to government. There's no alternative. If a government fails, either it stays on with Terror or it gets supplanted by another faction in the same government that can't make drastic changes 'cause there's only one party. This was not going to be viable either.

So but absolutely none of that is like the United States. And I'm just a physician.
posted by adoarns at 9:33 AM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


oh for god's sake
posted by mwhybark at 9:35 AM on December 3, 2008


I watched the Soviet Union collapse, and, since I am also familiar with the details of the situation in the United States, I can make comparisons between these two failed superpowers.

Plus, he can see Alaska from his house!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:38 AM on December 3, 2008 [8 favorites]


Making a broken device work is usually significantly more expensive (in terms of scarce hours of educated and skilled technicians' time, not just the dollar prices that reflect those costs) than mass producing 20 copies of the same device then throwing away and replacing the two that failed. That's a physical reality that's unlikely to change, even if the complementary "next year's device has many more capabilities and can be made more cheaply than last year's broken device" situation ever levels off.

Overall, Americans may be less well equipped than Russians to handle economic collapse... but if Americans are better at adapting to changing and counterintuitive economic realities, that's not evidence supporting this thesis.
posted by roystgnr at 9:39 AM on December 3, 2008


If you calculate Uhura's failure rate at contacting whoever she was supposed to contact, it's clear she was unqualified for her position.

Well, considering that JJ Abrams has her taking her top off in the new Trek trailer, I'm pretty sure I can look past those mistakes and find something else to stare at.
posted by willmize at 9:46 AM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


with runaway hyperinflation

More likely deflation in this case.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:51 AM on December 3, 2008


Or perhaps Ecotopia.
A fun, light read for tree-hugging secessionist conspirators and those that hate them.
posted by secondhand at 10:03 AM on December 3, 2008


I thought periodic collapse and rebuilding was the idea.

Mote Prime, here we come!
posted by dhartung at 10:37 AM on December 3, 2008


This is shit.
posted by docpops at 10:44 AM on December 3, 2008


You know, the alternating hysterical predictions of deflation and inflation have got me all worked up. Which is it?

They go: "It'll be hyperinflation! The dollar, she will be worth NOTHING!" and I'm all like "Sweet! I'll pay off my (soon to be super cheap) mortgage 20 years early!"

And then they go: "It's a deflationary death spiral!" and I start thinking "All right! I can afford more goodies even with my sharply reduced income!"

So which is it? I want to know. It's like the Christmas morning that will just never finally arrive.
posted by rusty at 11:13 AM on December 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


The warlord theocracies of the south/midwest inheriting most of the US's nukes and a belief that LA and SF are Sodom and Gomorrah?

Okay, dudes, I've talked about this before. This is how the future looks, okay? Just trust me.

The New Nation-States In the New New World:

Cascadia: Formerly Washington, Oregon, and parts of Idaho. Stable, socialist, skirmishes on Western Border, almost fanatically strict Green Laws, really good pot.

The Redwood Empire: California and Las Vegas. State-controlled farming and super-liberal policies. Huge tourist destination for Asian businessmen.

Mojave Disputed Zone: Most of Arizona and New Mexico. Active fighting between Mexico, Lone Star, and The United States. Home to the wandering "Free Camps" of story and song.

The United States Of America: A large military presence located in Colorado, Utah, The Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska calls itself the U.S.A. Also holds Maryland, D.C, and Northern Virgina. Engaged in fierce fighting with the Montana Freemen, The Libertines, and other terrorist groups. Martial Law in effect. In talks to establish the Mormon Automonus Zone in Utah in exchange for military help from the people.

Louisiana: Largely in an around New Orleans, kept independent by troops from U.S.A, Lone Star, and the Heartland Collective. Important trading link in bypassing the D. S. A.

The Heartland Collective: Formerly Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, and Iowa. Christian, although cutting back on that, communist collective. All Nationalized industries and concerns. Nice people.

The Democratic States Of America: A theocratic dictatorship taking up Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Flordia, and Mississippi. As closed as North Korea. Very strict. Very Poor. Currently in a "Cold War" with surrounding nations. Recently broke ties with the Heartland Collective.

The Republic of Lone Star: An Oil-State run by the Texas Trading Company. Currently in a border war with Mexico. Produces a lot of country songs, notably "Don't Tread On Me." a pro-Lone Star anthem that has become a popular rallying cry across the New States.

Free Atlantic: The series of agreements and standardizations that collect the small eastern states and city-states.

The Independent City State Of Manahatta: Unregulated economic zone. Popular with gangsters and businessmen. Mostly supported by European trade and tourism.

Free Vermont: Trade partner with New Quebec. Quiet, stable, and also has good pot.

Appalachia: Trade Union of Ohio, West Virginian, Indianan and Eastern Pennsylvania's various towns and cities. Almost no central government, but vigorously local fiefdoms Popular staging ground for activity into the D.E.S.

The People's Republic Of Columbia: Socialist State making up most of Massachusetts, Road Island, and Connecticut. Leader in science and technology but once fought a war with Manahatta over extradition and porous borders.

Maine was absorbed into New Quebec.

Unaligned States:

Newer Hampshire.
New Kansas and United Kansas.
Miami Central City-State.
posted by The Whelk at 11:16 AM on December 3, 2008 [25 favorites]


This guy sounds like my college roommate who graduated with a BS in physics and then, two weeks into his Master's programs in Economics, started giving us stock picks.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:20 AM on December 3, 2008


The warlord theocracies of the south/midwest inheriting most of the US's nukes and a belief that LA and SF are Sodom and Gomorrah?

Cascadia certainly can defend itself

With luck, the Weird City-State of Miami annexes that FL-GA border silo, the New New Mexico Which is Now Part Of Old Mexico takes their huge silo, the "Purchase this, Motherfuckers" Republique de Louisianne keeps theirs, and Montana and North Dakota fall into the hands of the second-ammendment-tax-resistance crazy militia who will not mess with anyone as long as they stay out of their damn lawn.
posted by qvantamon at 12:10 PM on December 3, 2008


Mormon Automonus Zone

What would they eat in this Automonus Zone? Pasghetti? Momatoes?
posted by ShameSpiral at 12:16 PM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


So, the United States is exactly the same, only opposite.

In Soviet Russia, country analyzes you!
posted by oaf at 12:20 PM on December 3, 2008


is step one invading Afghanistan?
posted by Glibpaxman at 12:23 PM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


So when is this forgiveness of credit card debt happening, as he posited?
posted by maxwelton at 12:27 PM on December 3, 2008


People are people. While there may have been a cultural collapse, a new one will fill the vacuum and cultures don't cost anything. Don't worry about it, although I would enjoy a nice culture right now.
posted by unixrat at 12:31 PM on December 3, 2008


I've seen rockets take off, and since I am familiar with planes, I can build a space shuttle.

I bet he can see Alaska from his porch.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:38 PM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is this another KGB shill, like the last "Russian predicts collapse of US" fpp?
posted by Krrrlson at 12:43 PM on December 3, 2008


Cascadia: Formerly Washington, Oregon, and parts of Idaho. Stable, socialist, skirmishes on Western Border, almost fanatically strict Green Laws, really good pot

Wouldn't the "Western Border" of Washington and Oregon be the Pacific? Who are they battling? Dolphins?
posted by AdamCSnider at 12:52 PM on December 3, 2008


Yes. Yes they are.

(whips self with little hooks) stupid! stupid! stupid!
posted by The Whelk at 12:53 PM on December 3, 2008


The Redwood Empire: California and Las Vegas. State-controlled farming and super-liberal policies. Huge tourist destination for Asian businessmen.

If it happens, they'd be wise to let Arizona in on the action. Otherwise, the inevitable war over water rights would be horrific. Last thing we in California need are a bunch of angry retirees lobbing cruise missiles at Hollywood.
posted by dantsea at 1:18 PM on December 3, 2008


In Soviet Russia, Hollywood lobs cruise missiles at you.
posted by qvantamon at 1:45 PM on December 3, 2008


Otherwise, the inevitable war over water rights would be horrific.

I hadn't thought of that. Hmmm. Mexico and Redwood agree to shared water rights (in exchange for very favorable trade agreements and freedom of movement) once the desert border waters are settled because they'd rather share than give anything to Lone Star, U.S.A or any of the god damned fringe groups that take over resources for a week until someone with bigger guns kicks them out?
posted by The Whelk at 1:46 PM on December 3, 2008


Well, it's nice to know engineers are pretty much the same everywhere. "My engineering degree grants me the knowledge and rational perspective to pontificate about anything, even subjects I've never studied."
posted by happyroach at 2:34 PM on December 3, 2008


Cascadia certainly can defend itself

Indeed.
posted by homunculus at 2:53 PM on December 3, 2008


I wonder if this man has taken into account that Russia has ALWAYS been a backward and badly run country.
posted by orange swan at 4:25 PM on December 3, 2008


Russia has ALWAYS been a backward and badly run country.

Exactly. They're so much better at being badly run -- we've only got about eight years of experience.
posted by dhartung at 5:57 PM on December 3, 2008


Do I even have to say that Florida is cut up like the Korean Peninsula. The Upper half belonging to the hermit state of D.E.S and the lower half a part to the Greater Coral Union, it's capital in Havana. Relations are very tense, and it is the only GCU stronghold on the mainland. Oddly enough, the huge DMZ between them has saved the central Floridian ecosystem, allowing the wetlands to spread .

Of course, it goes without saying that the D.E.S and the Greater Coral Union have talks. Very tense talks, in the middle of the DMZ. Do I have to mention that the site for the talks is Orlando., or to be more exact, Main Street, U.S.A., right next to Epcot?
posted by The Whelk at 6:17 PM on December 3, 2008


The guy puts up a story that fits perfectly the dystopia model. Catastrophic stories sell well also because people can be easily scared by something they don't fully understand, like economy. Similarly, the usual terrorist scare technique is being used right now in my country by some politician to suggest that every individual should be tracked down to a single internet IP, yet another security theatre that has more to do with power grab, meddling and mass distraction from other topics than with any decrease of risk at all. That's the political "culture" of scaring people into agreement.

Roosvelt said "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" and from a psychological point of view that' sound advice, as fear can cause freezing panic, fight-or-flight reactions that waste and subtract valuable time from a rational response.

Blaming industries, finances and marketing for seducing us into being careless consumers , as opposed to careful ones isn't going to fix anything as well, as the responsability for any purchase remains with the buyer. Yet any person is susceptible, to a degree, to suggestions, expecially hammered ones.

For instance, the "prepare for a complete lifestyle change from rich to poor" or "stop spending, save as much as possible" and "completely cut back on luxuries" are extremized versions of sound advices as "try fixing it before throwing it away" and "don't cover yourself in debts, spend less than you earn and make savings for the future" or "you can afford an impulsive purchase every now and then, if you have saved regularly".

If my memory doesn't fail, the sociologist Adorno was among those who said that mass production also produces its customers, possibily in the sense that mass production of some kind of goods also demands the production of a culture that accepts such goods, as marketing has to constantly suggest that X good is the next fad, it's the best, it's what everybody and your neighboors is buying et al, eventually leading to widespread acceptance that , for instance, only melodic classical music "is nice music" and anything else is something weird, automatically categorized as "odd" , "unpalatable".

A culture response will eventually influence how the market will work in the future, even more than financial rescue packages.
posted by elpapacito at 6:30 PM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


If somebody sets off a bomb we've pretty much got a Gamma World module here.
posted by GuyZero at 9:05 PM on December 3, 2008


TPTB want TSTHTF so we have TEOTWAWKI and they can impose NWO on J6P so you had better buy BBB and be ready to SSS some MZBs.
posted by Iron Rat at 10:47 PM on December 3, 2008


Iron Rat, it disturbs me that I could even understand half of that.

Thanks for the article. I'm not sure I agree with all of his points, but I do think that the American people should be preparing themselves to live very differently from the way we have for the past 10 or 20 years.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:59 AM on December 4, 2008


Okay, so popular opinion is he's a crank, and apparently lacking in the relevant expertise to make him even a particularly note-worthy crank. I get that.

And so many of the responses in here have that lovely Mefite sarcasm mixed with superiority that we all know and love. But it does seem a little bit too much "la-la-la, I'm not listening, I can't hear you" fingers-in-the-ears is going on here.

All nations/powers/empires fail. All of them. We can debate the hows and whys but they all do. So it would seem prudent to acknowledge that fact, allow ourselves to be reminded of the lessons from the most recent superpower that failed, learn from history and take nothing for granted.

Branding everyone who delivers a collapse scenario as being Chicken Little doesn't really help anyone understand anything.

And if I watch a few planes crash I probably can tell you some general similarities about plane crashes even if I don't work for the NTSB. Just sayin...
posted by pixlboi at 8:34 AM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


The question is: can anyone debunk Orlov's thesis, or at least shoot some holes in it, by factual means rather than by saying "oh yeah? what would you know?" I'd feel a lot more confident in dismissals that were backed up with refutations of points of his thesis rather than defensive chest-puffery (which, unaccompanied by facts, looks a little too close to denial).

People were saying that the Long Boom would go on forever, that the miracle of the stockmarket would keep rising, as would property prices, and this has been spectacularly blown out of the water.
posted by acb at 9:48 AM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure I agree with all of his points, but I do think that the American people should be preparing themselves to live very differently from the way we have for the past 10 or 20 years.

Given that the American lifestyle (and the lifestyles of much of the rest of the West; Australia, for one, and to a lesser extent, Europe) has been shaped by the assumption of cheap, plentiful oil since the 1950s at least, this is a given, even discounting Orlov's more apocalyptic predictions.

What the government should have started doing is building electric railroads across the country to replace the motorway/air traffic that will become unaffordable, and building solar chimneys/wind farms/nuclear plants to power them (and anything else powered by fossil fuel-generated electricity). As for urban planning, it has been predicted that the US will undergo a demographic inversion, where the affluent suburbs of McMansions with 3-car garages become deeply impoverished by rising transport costs, while the formerly poor inner cities become rapidly gentrified and increasingly expensive, due to their lower transport costs. (In other words, US cities will begin to resemble older European cities in their demographics.)

That is, assuming that everyone isn't killed by famine/genocide/killer caravans/zombies.
posted by acb at 9:59 AM on December 4, 2008


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