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« What Economists Believe | Main | Peak Energy - Peak Economy »

June 16, 2010


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Wow! George that has to be one of your most devestating posts....
Like you before this event I'd assumed a resiliance would provide plenty of time for an (enforced) contraction rather that classical collapse; now we are in unknown undersea smoker territory.
In practical terms I'd say think about the way your community will perform transactions; this may (and indeed should) be based on a gift economy and LETS (local exchange trading system) economy. A mutual credit system, where money is generated by the transaction itself this internal currency of co-operation cements a community in mutual dependance rather than accumulating in the hands of a few. This system (chicken and egg syndrome) wont work very well until convential money system is collapsing. Transistion towns using it in the UK have had mixed success because they are undermined by external influx of easy (debt) capital.

Other considerations are numerous in setting up communities but so much of the practical knowledge is already out there; tried and tested but supressed......we all have a lot to learn, I learned a lot from the ecologist magazine

Now sadly only available in on-line fomat- a regressive decision.
Your last line is worth repeating "I hope the oil gusher gets stopped soon and that my intuition is wrong"...when suddenly faced with new realities we suddenly find we need more time and start thinking of our children.


...and here is practical advice from the ecologist site for setting up a local community currency;

Some of this may not be applicable in the US but the foundation stages are sound.

This website is a veritable treasure trove of 40 years of practical advice and experience in all things ecological.


George did you happen to define this 'collapse' anywhere rigorously? I missed that if so.

I'll have to be honest -- speaking as someone who has been physically "taking action" for a year or two now, I'm finding a lot of what you're saying to be very behind-the-curve, over-emotional, and morally judgmental in a rather ineffectual sort of way. This doesn't sound like the guy I'm used to reading. It's weird.

My own thoughts on the 'University of Noesis' are the same as for any other intentional community -- they usually don't work. Even the odd that does isn't going to help the long-term prospects of anyone else nearly so much as Transition Towns, say. They already have a very good action set laid out as does someone like Sharon Astyk. (Please tell me you are familar with these names at the very least!)

Have you actually learned any Permaculture yet? (Not everyone thinks Permaculture is so very helpful BTW, but FWIW it does have a link to Transition Towns as well.) How much of what you are writing is being grabbed out of the air, vs. how much is considered and based on real personal experience with the options for action that you're entertaining? Are you familiar with all the arguments about lifeboat communities vs. adapting-in-place etc. that have been going on so long? Have you noticed how much practical work has already been done?

Just asking! Sorry to be blunt, but I have great respect for your theoretical mind, and frankly much of what you're saying here is the kind of stuff I hear out of the mouths of some fairly, ahm, clueless (= inexperienced and spooked) doomer-survivalist types... hope I'm wrong! No offence! :)

Of course there will be big crashes again in finance, but that doesn't mean the liquidation of society. It means a lot of violence, illness, wars, and all the usual stuff, plus starving if you don't come together in communities. *Sigh*, you know what I think! Depending on your reply I'll have to stop around a little less frequently because I seem to be having this reaction a lot. I don't want to slow you up in doing what you think is the right thing, but if you act in a panic based on an interior apocalypse-image you won't do much good for anyone IMO.


Calling the oil gusher a black swan event I find a bit ummm evomitive. :-)

Interesting and tempting theory, but...:

Perhaps I've missed something during my week out in the wild - but the oil hasn't yet destroyed all GoM ecos? Sure, fishery will suffer for a decade (if not forever due to fish population collapse). Sure, tourism will suffer for a few years. -- But that a black swan?

Like the Great Gulf War Oil Spill, all might be green again in just a decade or two.

So, it looks more like brown pelicans to me.

BancruPtcy of BP might perhaps turn out a black swan, but will it have more impact than Lehman Brothers?

Travis Robertson

As far as the buildings and other structures for the 'University of Noesis' I would consider the Passive Annual Heat Storage (PAHS) concept. More info available at

david mcconville


I have been reading with great interest many of your posts regarding education, systems, sapience, and the need for action. A couple of recommendations come to mind that may be of interest. First, Soren Brier's Cybersemiotics framework closely aligns with many of your ideas regarding how to conceptualize hypercomplex systems. See for an overview. He has developed this after years of editing the journal Cybernetics and Human Knowing, addressing the need to understand the experiential, cultural, empirical, and systemic aspects of reality.

Also, regarding solutions, I encourage you to check out the submissions to the Buckminster Fuller Challenge at and They represent an extraordinary cross-section of projects developed through comprehensive, anticipatory design approaches that often address ecological, social, and economic issues simultaneously.

Thanks for you provocative postings. Keep 'em coming.

George Mobus

GaryA (and all),

I'm not actually thinking of setting up a community in the sense of the village I described. Rather I'm interested in setting up a rural-based residence 'school' where people who see the need to prepare can come to do so. Of course if the setting is conducive, if a 'settlement' self-organizes around that seed then so be it.

My thought is that if you gather very smart and relatively wise people (those who have seen the light!) they will figure out what needs to happen and get it done. My vision isn't so much a blueprint as a set of criteria for success in having and maintaining a self-sustaining community. If an internal currency emerges, so be it.



What do you have in mind for a location?

George Mobus


Several things. First I think you read far too much into this than is there. What makes you think I'm in a panic?

Second, yes I am very familiar with Astyk, Transition Towns, Community Solutions, and many more writers/attempts in the area of how to survive the coming crash. But you labor under a possible misapprehension of what I am doing. These other efforts are aimed at saving as many Homo sapiens as possible by transitioning to a smaller energy footprint. It is a laudable goal, but also, ultimately infeasible (IMO). My vision is on the scale of evolution, not preservation of the impossible-to-preserve now. In my view this species has reached the point of being incompetent to adapt to the kinds of environmental changes it has wrought through its lack of sufficient sapience. If I am right, then there are only two possible long-term outcomes. One is extinction. I don't like that outcome, personally. The other is genetic adaptation - evolution to a better fitted species.

That has several possible trajectories. One might be to devolve to the supposed brutes from whence we came, presumably with physical adaptations to the emerging environmental conditions. Not appealing. Another is to continue on the current trajectory by further evolving the enhancement of sapience.

The reasons I think the latter is the only viable option (if option can be said to be the right word here) is that physical and mental evolution to radically different forms requires substantial time and population dynamics. Neither time nor population size and breeding practices will be in our favor since the time scales of climate change and its consequences will be very abrupt compared with the historical shifts due to glacial/interglacial periods - the factors which most strongly affected our evolution in the Pleistocene. The more compelling reason, however, is that enhanced sapience along with our already formidable cleverness, provides a greater capacity to adapt quickly to changing conditions. We evolved this combination in the first place precisely because they provide extraordinary fitness in terms of adapting to a wide range of climates and resource conditions. More of the same competence, but with a stronger weighting on wisdom seems about right to me.

Thus nudged-evolution after a bottleneck event in the continuing direction of the just recently emerged capacity for sapience, toward eusapience, seems to me to be the only viable option. Hence my concerns are with finding a mechanism to allow an aggregation of more highly sapient individuals in the near future who will figure out what needs to be done to survive the bottleneck event.

Now, of course, you may not believe that things could be as bad as I make them out to be for our species. In such case it is natural to think in terms of saving as many people, regardless of their genetic potential, as possible. That is essentially what Transition Towns, et al are all about. I applaud their efforts and hope they are right, at least into the near future. Their efforts can help ease the suffering for many.

But just in case they are wrong in their assumptions about how catastrophic coming events will be, I've always thought it prudent to have a backup plan. In this case it is a backup plan to the backup plan!

Notice I haven't written any books (as have all the others from Astyk to Greer, etc.) They believe they can address a mass market of people who will follow their prescriptions. I restrict myself to this blog (although I am working on a book that will be released after there is more clarity as to how much s**t is hitting the fan - to prepare humanity for extinction) It doesn't have a mass appeal nor do I do much in the way of advertising (posting links on a few blogs where doomish ideas are expressed).

I believe that everything I have been writing is internally consistent even if it represents a form of mental evolution over the years - as a result of questioning earlier assumptions! So if you find a divergence between your thinking and where I am headed, then I certainly understand. But I hope you will pop by from time to time to see where that evolution has brought me at that time. Who knows?


George Mobus

Welcome back Flor.

My first job after I got my doctorate was working on some software for a group of environmental scientist who were working on understanding the ecological community dynamics after the Exxon Valdez debacle. They were wanting to know how to best restore those communities affected by the oil spill. In a nut shell here is what they (and I) learned: The communities would never restore to their previous state! This was discovered empirically and bolstered theoretically. Too complex to go into here. But this is the point: the Prince Edward Sound is a far less complex biota than the GoM coastal areas affected. If even simple communities cannot be restored after a toxic shock, how do you imagine a complex one with perhaps several keystone species in multiple food webs going to do so?

So yes. I think this is a black swan event (in Taleb's definition). Some might think it was avoidable if only... But the key is in the if only phrase. If only we weren't human?

I would advise not selling this event short for the far-ranging and long-term effects it will have (second and higher order consequences).


George Mobus


Thanks for the tip and link. I will investigate.


George Mobus

David M.,

Thanks to you too. I got my start in generalist/systems thinking from some guidance from Bucky! Will check it all out.


George Mobus


Somewhere not too far from here! ;^) E-mail me.


j Drake

stumbled upon your blog via a comment link on BIG Picture...

here's your location! Owner currently selling...& set up as his own preparedness property...several several acres own food producing etc.

George Mobus

J. Drake,

Thanks for the link. It does look enticing, doesn't it. Climate in Ecuador is supposed to be more stable than higher latitudes. Tempting.


Robin Datta

The time for action has been with us since Jimmy Carter's MEOW (Moral Equivalent Of War) speech on April 18, 1977:

(I remember it: I was then a captain at Fort Benning, GA.)

In more recent times a military-style mobilization of effort has been often suggested to deal with PO &/or GW. It has not been too early to initiate action for over three decades now.

With regard to the oil "spill" in the Gulf of Mexico, a new perspective has been emerging, as in dougr's comment on The Oil Drum:

The present administration's accession to office was predicated on Change™: this will be delivered with or without their acquiescence in immensities heretofore found only in fiction.

George Mobus


You are right about the time to have started action was long ago. I would argue (and William Catton does) that it was even longer ago than Carter. But that assumes that the problem to have been mitigated was what most people assume - the salvation of mankind. My own conclusion because no understanding or action was taken is that there can be no salvation at this late date.

The action I am thinking of is the preparation for what comes after mankind has largely disappeared from the planet. I presume, hope, and will work toward there being some survivors that will constitute the bottleneck event results. I have no illusions about saving mankind, or some large portion of mankind, in the sense that those survivors will simply pick up where we left off before the bottleneck. Homo sapiens is destined for extinction. But I hope that will entail the emergence of a new, more sapient species in the distant future. I have no wish to see the hominin line disappear with our demise. I just wish the line to evolve such that individuals and societies of those individuals will be capable of much greater wisdom of how to live in harmony with the Ecos.

Life already learned how to control the growth of individuals from within, without external forces applied. Populations require external forces such as disease and predation to keep things in check and these only work partially well, with sporadic fluctuations. In the case of humanity not even the external forces could do the job. Internal self-regulation is needed. In eusapience might life not be in the process of evolving self-regulation of population and consumption tendencies? Could it not be a possibility?

Is it my own kind of hubris to think that such is possible? Perhaps. But what is the alternative. More foolish humanity? Devolved brutes? Total extinction? Of all scenarios, which embodies anything like hope?

Yes change is coming, and sooner than I originally thought.



Great reality satire history lesson with snippets of 8 POTUS speaking on oil:

(Last line: "Why couldn't even Nixon get it done? Because he was a communist.")

George Mobus

Hi Flor.

Dead right on! I've watched it several times now and sent the link to friends, including my energy students from last quarter.

I asked them, now that they knew something about energy in the real world, could they think why eight presidents have been such failures at achieving this. There are several reasons, of course, not the least of which is humanity's (and especially Americans) lack of wisdom and surfeit of greed. But the real underlying cause is that there is no feasible solution to saving BAU. It is impossible!



You say All it will take is a trigger event of just the right magnitude to set the collapse in motion.

If not this Gulf of Mexico disaster, could it be the foreseen solar storm? I think you must have seen it in the news. Just in case here you have some info:

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