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09/03/2012

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David Bolduc

Another excellent post! I'm a lurker who reads you daily. Yes, thanks for pointing out and clarifying the differences between slow multi-causal decline and a secular doom!

I want to heartily endorse this comment. Not because David thought this was an excellent post, but because he understood the key distinction underlying it -- Dave

T E Cho

Dave, thanks for the clarification.

Also, Australia might be a nice place to live after Pittsburgh. Lots of beach.

TOM PAYNE

WHAT A FUCKING CLOSE-MINDED BIGOT!

Dave Cohen

Gee, TOM

Did I say something that offended you in some way?

I'm terribly sorry! ;-)

More seriously, DOTE will strive to be what it needs to be, which as far as I can see does not exist on the internet. I will not tolerate wacko discussions on this website. DOTE is not a democracy.

There are plenty of other places for the wackos to go. In fact, there are a seemingly endless number of places for the wackos to go. This is not a surprise. That is the Human Condition.

TOM is gone.

-- Dave

Ben

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like Orlov and Keiser are happy reporting on bad news. When I look at the data points (food inflation) they look at I become nauseous, and then angry.

H Read

Let me see if I've got this right. You see a number of factors from environmental destruction to resource depletion that will necessitate a fundamental change in the way our civilization functions. The American way of life is predicated on upon readily available cheap oil. There is strong evidence to suggest that we have reached the peak production of light sweet crude. Environmental conditions could destabilize very quickly.

On top of this we have an inability as a species to plan ahead for these possibilities and make orderly changes in anticipation of, say, the decline in oil.

So, I am not sure that I understand the fundamental difference between decline and collapse apart from some notion of the rate at which events unfold.

I hope that we can manage an orderly decline, but if we keep on ignoring the warning signs, don't we bake in the likelihood of some catastrophe?

Our society is very complex and it could all come unraveled very quickly. Wasn't the Aztec collapse pretty quick once they had exhausted the "easy" resources? I don't think we should underestimate the effect of changes at the margin on human behavior.

Dave Cohen

Re: Let me see if I've got this right... Environmental conditions could destabilize very quickly

No, it looks like you don't have it right yet. Keep working on it.

I need to write about time scales, but I already knew that. For example, what does "very quickly" mean? Next week?

And why did you ignore my remarks about Doomers and eschatology, which was the subject of this post?

-- Dave

Bill

Dave,

Thanks for this post, since it covers something I have had to address personally for years; that is, the difference between "survival" of some catastrophic collapse and the preparation, mentally and physically, for a completely different than today, less-complex, lower-energy input "rest of time."

I actually live in a remote mountain community along moving water which supports a tiny mill operation - which serves little purpose today but might be handy when my youngest child is an adult. When I work, I teach solar power, not as a "green job skill" (total joke) but to those who'd like to be able to be "millers" in their local communities someday.

As for timing of any paradigm shift, I'd venture it's happening now. Jimmy Carter wasn't too far off in his 30 years to prepare speech in 1979 - it was based upon Hubbert's actual calculations, not the Bible.

Am I a "doomer?" No. I invest my time and money in things that are based on conclusions, based on the data I see. If things are going to change, slowly or rapidly, the lucky "investor" is the person who got in front of the trend, after all. And I could go broke in a much worse neighborhood, so what's the big deal? :)

Don't let the ba$tards get'cha down...

John Theodorou

Dave,

There are many kinds of doomers, most of whom arrived at their viewpoint from a reasoned look at the facts. Not all, or even many are survivalists, which is who I think you are describing. So, can we lay off the doomer bashing? I would think that this blogsite would be considered extremely doomerish when compared to what passes for "informed comment" out in the mainstream.

Best regards, your firm supporter.

adam

To be honest, I am a little sick of the internecine warfare. I think pretty much all of us agree that conditions are severe and the end result is going to be a radically different world from today. I think we're arguing over things none of us know, which is the timeline and manner of change. Some argue we will all be on bicycles and have solar panels, some that we will end up starving in slums or running to the countryside. It's possible more than one of these things will happen.

I don't think the "doomers" are that crazy; there is always a possibility of collapse. Just as a person can have a heart attack and die even though they thought they were healthy, a society can very quickly change, as Russia did in 1990. On the other hand, the 2008 crash was very severe, but aside from real estate and those pushed into unemployment or out of the labor force, most things are basically running the same - supermarkets and universities are still open, people still buy cars, pay taxes, etc. And of course, the stock market is back to 13,000, fake or not, it's there.

Dave, I appreciate your viewpoint, otherwise I would not visit this site everyday. You have a broader view than many and cover issues that are marginalized by those who specialize in certain things - the oil obsessed or finance obsessed at sites we both can name. And you do focus on documenting what's happening rather than trying to tell the future, which I respect. But I like to hear many voices and make my own judgements. These sorts of fights and arguments don't really make much difference to me, as what comes will come irrespective of our differing opinions, and beyond the control of any of us. Each of us makes our own judgements and takes action in our own way. Fighting over "decline" vs "collapse" or "financial causes" vs "resource causes" or "decades" vs "years" is to me about as relevant as arguing over how many angels fit on the head of a pin.

It's just a ride, as Bill Hicks said.

Dave Cohen

@John Theodorou

I object to the term "doomer bashing". I explained very clearly what types of people I was talking about, and then explained very clearly what they are up to.

And furthermore, as you should well know, there are lots and lots of them, especially on the internet. I write on the internet.

Furthermore, what if somebody called you a A FUCKING CLOSE-MINDED BIGOT! Would you like that? I bet not.

I am doing what needs to be done. I am cleaning house.

-- Dave

John Theodorou

Dave, my response was related to the article at hand, not the comments and yes that one was disgraceful, to say the least. Now, I'm well aware of the other types you describe on the internet. I still venture there occasionally. I would classify myself as a doomer and if you believe, as you do, that the world as we know is coming to an end, whether it's next month, or sometime in the coming century, then that makes you one too. That's how most people would see it. Now, sometimes I think that everything could unravel very quickly as it almost did in 2008 and at other times, like you, it seems as if it may string out for several more decades, as the "Empire strikes back". Who's to know ultimately? "You spin the wheel and takes your chances". Damn Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle!

Chris Notts

I also don't really understand the distinction being made here. From your blog you do seem to believe that in the long run things will get a lot worse for humanity because of human short sightedness. As others have said, to the vast majority of non-doomers this would make you a doomer.

The only difference between you and some (but not all) other doomers is the timing and the correct individual response to the problem. But ideas about these areas vary widely from person to person anyway within the wider doomer community.

I also don't believe that, just because something is unpredictable and hard to forecast, it is wrong to have a view of the most likely case for planning purposes. If you have no forecast then your ability to plan is very limited because you can't cover all contingencies well at the same time. Therefore, most people who are interested in adapting to anticipated decline will first decide what kind of scenario it is they are trying to adapt to, even though they know that the future is very uncertain. It is simply impossible to plan for every possible outcome. Of course, this is not an issue if you are not interested in adapting, but most people do have a strong interest in their own survival and prosperity, and it seems like a natural reaction, if you believe in bad times ahead, to do something about them.

The point I'm trying to make is that there are vaguely rational reasons to adopt a view about what will happen and (approximately) when even if you acknowledge uncertainty and don't have a religious attachment to your forecast. This is what every business does after all, even though market uncertainty is obvious.

Chris Notts

I should also say that, all else being equal apart from the timing, planning for a short-term collapse and being pleasantly surprised may also be more rational in some sense, than planning for a long-term decline and being unpleasantly surprised.

T E Cho

Perhaps part of the problem is we need a word or term to carve out the meaning of a reality-science-based pessimist about the future vs a faith-personality-based pessimist. Ok, a faith-personality-based person or group can be called 'doomer' , but even after 60- 50+ years there is no good word for the scientists and political-economic prognosticators who are future pessimistic. ' Malthusian' is inflammatory and intrinsically unfair. 'Ecologist' describes an occupation, not a future-worldview-belief based on observed facts.

Also, it looks like there are only 3 categories of worldview-pessimism:
- economic
- environmental
- political

Finally, there are a percentage of people who are a combination of both faith and science based pessimists. Some people are naturally pessimistic or have been raised in a glass half-empty environment. Others have been raised in a faith based environment, but see science eerily supporting some things they were taught long ago. Others jump the fence back and fourth between the two. Others just have an innate sense that things seem out-of-whack somehow, maybe based on living a long time and seeing how things have changed. Some just have a clearer view of human-nature and history, or don't see the world thru rose colored glasses. I guess depressed people are brain-chemistry based doomers. Although studies have shown the depressed see the world more realistically.

And we also need a word for those who constantly have 'faith' everything will turn out OK, the eternal-optimists. The Singularity-Itarians are science-based optimists.

Antonio

The most credible studies suggest that the society is following the way of collapse. Just think about the last Club of Rome book, in particular the BAU simulation (that we are following).
The population should start falling in the next 2 decades. Isn't it a collapse forecast? In that book they often use the world "collapse". Are they all doomers? Think about what happened to Cuba, where they had to start growing their own food from day to day. I think that the most credible explanation about the collapse of URSS is peak oil (samotlor and other fields rapid decline, together with the stupidity of URSS politics). Think about the fact that most of oil comes from very old giant fields that (according to ASPO forecast) are going to start decline very soon, perhaps very rapidly, and we have no way to replace them. I think that we are in very slippery situation where so many things could go wrong very rapidly. I don't really understand all this controversy about doomers, collapse and so on: time wasted. For my understanding this website is about something that is very near to collapse. With a lot of polemic.

LCarey

A quibble is that if we take a really long view (centuries instead of decades), then when that slow, grinding decline is viewed in retrospect and viewed over a very long period it will sure LOOK like a single collapse event (e.g., the collapse of the Roman Empire). But for the folks actually living through such event (whether the Romans or us), on a human time scale it will not feel like a single definitive catastrophic "collapse", rather it will feel like just a long slow "decline" punctuated from time to time by a few intervals of sheer panic and terror. I believe that latter "decline" process is what Dave is trying to illuminate on this blog.

unhappyCakeEater

There could be some merit in studying the lifecycle of the Doomer. The progression from that first realization that something is wrong to staying up all night reading The Oil Drum to the Big Shopping Trip at costco. I think you would start to see some differentiation from that point in the various flavors of Doomer; some continue to escalate into crazyville, building bunkers in the back yard and training their wives to expertly toss them reloaded magazines in the dark. Others retreat into their church, seeing correlation in the secular doom and biblical. Still others cannot sustain the initial fervor and maybe a few new habits are taken up (maybe a veggie garden and a few jugs of water in the garage) but mostly they fall back into life as usual.

Some people have a habit of thinking things through to their logical end and realize that rapture, secular or otherwise is not likely to happen- at least not like you read on the internets. Its called doomer porn for good reason! These people decide that while anything is possible (yellowstone may blow its top and all bets are off, for instance) the most likely future is that life just gets really hard again. Things too far away to walk to are too far away to care about. Eating is the major focus of your daily effort.

The difficult part is getting over laziness and the human habit of magical thinking. I agree with you Mr. Cohen; we are our own worst enemy in this rearrangement. Its too hard to give up our notions of the "good life" and it is too easy to imagine ourselves as heroes with ten years worth of rice in the basement and headshot zombies piling up in the front yard.

Mike Roberts

Hi Dave,

Just wondering why my post didn't get through. I don't recall there being too much in there to cause offence. Hopefully, it just got lost in moderation (in which case I'll try to remember what I wrote and re-submit.

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