Forbidden from attending the annual rites of football in facepaint and cheesehead-hats, frustrated masses bused to Washington to chant in unison and smash tribal effigies in their nation’s marbled HaDvir.
It is not particularly difficult to position the Capitol Riot of 2021 in the timeline of the life and death of complex societies. Were we to apply Orlov’s Six Stages of Collapse to this moment, we might find ourselves hovering over some midpoint in the implosion sequence:
Ideally, it would start with a global financial collapse triggered by a catastrophic loss of confidence in the tools of globalized finance. That would swiftly morph into commercial collapse, caused by global supply chain disruption and cross-contagion. As business activity grinds to a halt and tax revenues dwindle to zero, political collapse wipes most large-scale political entities off the map, allowing small groups of people to revert to various forms of anarchic, autonomous self-governance. Those groups that have sufficient social cohesion, direct access to natural resources, and enough cultural wealth (in the form of face-to-face relationships and oral traditions) would survive while the rest swiftly perish. …
On a hot summer night in 1992, or so we are told by a writer for MIT’s Technology Review, two particle physicists at Los Alamos National Laboratory were staring out over the moonlit desert and sipping cold beers. Given the story that followed, I kind of wonder whether something more aromatic than beer was involved.
“What if,” Klaus Lackner wondered out loud to his companion, Christopher Wendt, “machines could build machines? How big and fast could you manufacture things?” It was not a new idea. Science fiction writers had been drawing from that meme for half a century to populate whole galaxies. …
Clemens said, “History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme.” It may also have meter. One century ago there was a rhythmic beat of discontent in Germany following the surprise announcement of surrender on the Western Front.
People were shocked. They were totally unprepared for that news. German generals had known for most of 1918 that the war was lost. Soldiers were being overtaken in the trenches by an influenza that was horribly lethal and easily spread in the wretched conditions of the battlefield. …
Haaland’s very existence is proof that the collapse of Chaco culture did not augur extinction of the Pueblo peoples.
The popular science writer Jared Diamond defined “collapse” as “a drastic decrease in human population size and or political/economic/social complexity, over a considerable area, for an extended time.” If we conceive the Covid Pandemic of 2020 in these terms, it was pretty mild. It caused, as it now seems in December 2020, a temporary drop in the rate of increase in human population accompanied by slight reduction in political/economic/social complexity, over a considerable area, for a short time. As collapses go, it was a light rehearsal. …
There is no more evidence Russians were behind the SolarWinds hack than that Donald Trump was reelected President.
Because those of my advanced age are under general quarantine orders now in the State of Quintana Roo, I did not venture out to any of the usual Christmas Eve festivities with children batting piñatas and candles set before the Virgin of Guadalupe, but made an early night of it and arose to my usual routine, watering my garden while the espresso steamed on the stove.
Coffee made and fragrant cup in hand, I sat at my desk and dialed up the daughter in Tennessee to wish a happy Christmas. No answer. I called the son and granddaughter, who live just up the road from my daughter. Also no answer. Hmmm. They could still be sleeping in, I thought, but usually my son leaves the phone on voice mail. …
Social theorists today work within a crumbling social matrix…. The old order has the picks of a hundred rebellions thrust into its hide.
— Alvin W. Gouldner
That quotation, from The Coming Crisis of Western Society, was chosen by William R. Catton to open his 1980 book on population. In late April, 2006, I attended the Peak Oil NYC conference at Cooper Union with speakers besides myself including Catherine Austin Fitts, Derrick Jensen, James Howard Kunstler, Geoff Lawton, David Pimentel, Michael Ruppert, Matt Savinar, Albert Bartlett, Michael Brownlee, William Clark, John Howe, John Ikherd, David Jacke, and Dmitry Orlov.
Then many of us hopped the Amtrak and went to Washington DC to attend a second conference May 7–9 with speakers such as Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, Mona Sahlin (Minister for Sustainable Development, Sweden), Lester Brown, Herman Daly, James Hansen, Kenneth Deffeyes, Michael Klare, Bill McKibben, Robert Costanza and Charles Hall. All this was followed by yet a third conference that same week in DC, Petrocollapse with Jan Lundberg, Richard Heinberg, and Randall Wallace. Such a movable feast. …
John Miller’s family was not unusually large. It is just that he lived long enough to find out what simple multiplication does.
Recently, on the eve of his 95th birthday, John Eli Miller died in a rambling farmhouse near Middlefield, Ohio, 40 miles southeast of Cleveland, leaving to mourn his passing perhaps the largest number of living descendants any American has ever had.
He was survived by five of his seven children, 61 grandchildren, 338 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren, a grand total of 410 descendants.
Shortly before his death, which came unexpectedly from a stroke, I had the privilege of two long visits with John E. Miller, during which I learned the feeling of one man who had personally watched the population explosion of the 20th century. A national magazine had determined that the venerable Ohio farmer was head of what almost certainly was the largest family in the United States. …
There are no simple answers, only simple questions.
During the 2020 US election cycle, which now seems so long ago, a televised virtual debate took place in the State of Iowa. The incumbent Senator, Joni Ernst, first gained national attention in 2014 for a televised campaign ad comparing the castration of hogs to cutting spending in Washington. “Let’s make ’em squeal,” she proclaimed.
Her reputation was then cemented when she delivered the opposition party response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address in 2015, introducing herself to the nation ”as a young girl [who] plowed the fields of our family farm.” …
Storytelling elevates our group skill set, but sometimes myths evolve over time and become more lurid, fanciful, or real-sounding.
“They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things… They willingly traded everything they owned… They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” …
Can a global population of 8 to 10 billion people be fed, sheltered, kept healthy, and still have iPhones?
Whether humans will be able to reverse catastrophic climate change in time to avert their own extinction depends upon many unknowns and a few unknowables. Like Operation Warp Speed to discover a coronavirus vaccine, studies and clinical trials have helped us to better understand what will or won’t work. We know that tree planting alone won’t suffice. We know that everyone switching to grass-fed beef wouldn’t save us either. We know that there are no magic bullets in solar radiation management or direct air carbon capture systems. Decarbonizing energy and transportation are necessary but insufficient. …