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Thriving in the Age of Collapse
January 5, 2009 1:28 PM   Subscribe


 
Him again?
posted by Joe Beese at 1:34 PM on January 5, 2009


Another essay detailing how soon we will all be living in the Capital Wasteland, using bottle-caps for cash.
posted by grabbingsand at 1:40 PM on January 5, 2009


But, but, he's an ENGINEER! And as you know, engineers, by virtue of their engineering degrees are qualified to say anything about everything! Whether it's evolution, racial genetics, astronomy or the economy, I'm sure you can trust any engineer not to be a crank.
posted by happyroach at 1:50 PM on January 5, 2009 [11 favorites]


Yesterday it was the Age of Anxiety, today the Age of Collapse.

Apparently the Age of Hyperbole doesn't sell papers. Which is too bad, as it's the most valid designation.

I prefer the Age of Apocalypse.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:56 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dmitry Orlov needs to learn how to write.

As well, it's kind of funny how he's predicting the collapse of the United States based on his experiences watching the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Orlov is saying that a hypercapitalist economy that is transitioning to a centrally controlled economy (ie, the US right now) will behave or collapse in the same was as a centrally/controlled economy that transitioned to a hypercapitalist model (ie, the old Soviet Union back in the 90s).

Seems rather.... illogical, for an engineer.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:59 PM on January 5, 2009


Is the Bruce Sterling State of the World thing ever not fascinating?
posted by Artw at 2:03 PM on January 5, 2009


Thriving on collapse is as easy as thriving on growth. Just go long on this fund.
posted by mullingitover at 2:09 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man, the Sterling State of the World is much more interesting than the link on this post.

Although much of it seems to be musings on how to make the state wither away finally this time. And trying to apply things like crowdsourcing and open source to things like sewage systems. Round pegs meets square hole, although I'm open to the possibility.
posted by zabuni at 2:35 PM on January 5, 2009


Where are the tags for Doom et al.?

Incidentally, Orlov's blog, Club Orlov* has links to his various pessimistic prognostications, including the above article and more recent pieces. His latest entry begins, "I haven't been posting of late, mostly because I feel that my job is more or less done. I called it as I saw it, and, unfortunately, I seem to have called it correctly. The US is collapsing before our eyes. Stage 1 collapse is very advanced now; stages 2 and 3 are picking up momentum.", referring to his "Five Stages of Collapse" (briefly, Financial, Commercial, Political, Social, and Fallout 3 Cultural).

While I appreciate worst-case scenarios as much as the next MeFite, they always read as though the authors are barely able to restrain their anticipation for the apocalypse of their choice.

* Which counts James Kunstler as an honorary member.
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:11 PM on January 5, 2009


I'd be inclined to call Orlov a bit of a Gloomy Gus myself... if many of the direst predictions his fellow party-poopers made about the economy last year hadn't either come true or fallen short of present horrors.

Do all you confident commenters really believe total collapse is impossible? Would anyone here have believed a year ago that in the blink of an eye the investment bank "industry" would basically cease to exist in America -- or that the Big Three automakers would be simultaneously trembling on the brink of bankruptcy?

Ignore cracking ice at your peril, says I...
posted by Olden_Bittermann at 3:17 PM on January 5, 2009


The use of "will" when "may" would suffice is one obvious red flag.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:30 PM on January 5, 2009


Ignore cracking ice at your peril, says I...

Tell you what, if things go all pear-shaped, I will personally seek you out and offer you my bloated corpse with which you can protect yourself from the elements and packs of wild mutant bearcats. Although I didn't take much of an interest in the financial shenanigans that lead up to the collapses, I wasn't surprised. For years people bought shit with money they don't have, on micro- and macroeconomic levels, it was inevitable and predictable for anyone with an ounce of common sense.

It seems to me that our society is fairly resilient - the financial and automotive industries you mention are doing very poorly, but even if they go under, there is academic and physical infrastructure in place that will ensure the vacuum they leave will be refilled, for better or for worse. It's the things beyond governmental/technological/financial's relatively limited sphere of influence that will sink society, not a credit crisis - things like climate change and ecological collapse, both of which seem to be given short shrift by Orlov, at least in this piece.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 4:14 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure he's talking about life after Z-day. I just hope it doesn't come before the movie does. I don't know if cinemas will take bottle caps.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:34 PM on January 5, 2009


Truly, he seems to be basing his entire argument on the idea that we will not find suitable alternatives to the oil-based economy in time. Being a complete non-expert on these matters, I can never-the-less see a high demand from people in general for ways of cheaply getting from here to there, and I cannot believe that one of the many technological lifeboats I keep reading about will come to fill that gap.
posted by Parannoyed at 4:51 PM on January 5, 2009


Let me try that last sentence again...

"...I cannot believe that one of the many technological lifeboats I keep reading about will NOT come to fill that gap

and yes, I realize that comment had a ghastly lack of periods. My english teacher is performing backflips in her grave as we speak...
posted by Parannoyed at 4:54 PM on January 5, 2009


wake me when it's the age of Booze, Drugs, and Large-Scale Dance Parties, Maybe With Drums.
posted by The Whelk at 5:56 PM on January 5, 2009


So I am the only one who really, really, really liked the little bit in World War Z, where the Reclamation Army constantly bitched about the groups of Last Men Of Earth who set up little kingdoms and set traps and acted like total asses when they tried to clear areas?
posted by The Whelk at 6:02 PM on January 5, 2009


The Big 3 have been doomed for at least a decade. I called it too, Mr. Orlov!

Similarly, the inevitable crash of the bubble/burst cycle combined with crappy ARMs based on Infinite! Future! Growth! weren't hard to see, either.

In both cases, I was actually surprised they've lasted this long.

I was far more surprised when Obama won, honestly. Now that was a bet I would not have taken even two years ago.

In short: predictions are interesting, but not all that useful. Postulating future events in terms of coming up with solutions is not so much about the events but the ideas that come out of your postulating, which can then be tested. Which is what I find much more interesting about Sterling's chat.

But I'm still waiting for the skyscraper farms to arrive so that we can stop our strange insistence on making our food supply dependent on Earth's unreliable weather. Give us our abundant food grown in robot-monitored habitats and stop fertilizing/pesticiding the prairie to death.

/rant
posted by emjaybee at 6:58 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


MJB: Surely that's because skyscrapers, robots, and artificial light are kinda expensive and land is super ridonkulously cheap in comparison?

Even land in temperate climates with really good soil and proper drainage?

Especially considering that the skyscraper farms wouldn't eliminate pests any more than apartments in cities have eliminated rats and cockroaches?

Come with me to rural Ohio, home to some of the most fertile agricultural soil on the planet, and we can set you up with a nice little homestead.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:59 PM on January 5, 2009


So I am the only one who really, really, really liked the little bit in World War Z, where the Reclamation Army constantly bitched about the groups of Last Men Of Earth who set up little kingdoms and set traps and acted like total asses when they tried to clear areas?

I loved that bit - like a mini, slightly bitchy version of the Holnists.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:14 AM on January 6, 2009


If prefer the Finnish commentator Jimi Tenor's Year of the Apocalypse which really should be getting more attention.
posted by Damienmce at 4:31 AM on January 6, 2009


Having actually read Orlov's article (very long), it's actually quite interesting, though like that Kunstler chap he seems to be barely disguising his relish at the destruction of the current Western way of life and tends towards long, ranty screeds about The System that fail to see any good in modern society whatsoever.

Personally, I believe life for my children (and possibly me, thirty or forty years from now) will be quite different, if only because life today is quite different to thirty or forty years ago. I will indeed be doing some of the things Orlov recommends (like trying to get somewhere to live that I own free and clear, learning skills like carpentry and growing food), but I won't be mixing that in with a dose of post-apocalyptic get orf my landism and a shotgun under the bed.

Quite why people think that anarchy is the inevitable result of humans forced to live on less I'll never know. Yes, it happens, and the relative social isolation and degradation of community relationships in the US might make it pretty nasty in places, but short of a few megatons of nukes falling or an asteroid hitting, there won't be cannibal bloodcults quite yet.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:24 AM on January 6, 2009


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