Monday, October 16, 2017

Still Here

Well, here I am. I didn't mean to go silent for so long but I've simply been overwhelmed with various jobs and the whole blog-writing thing has been pushed to near the back of the pile in terms of priorities.

First off, I apologise but the anthology of stories will not be going ahead. I've contacted some of you directly about this, but not all of you. The reason it isn't going ahead is because there was not enough material. I thought I had enough but then a couple of the authors have proved uncontactable and others were unreceptive to feedback about their stories. So, what I was left with would have filled a very slender volume. It's a pity, but there we are. If you would still like to see your story published then contact Joel Carris at Into the Ruins, who will I'm sure consider it.

Anyway, I'm currently sat here in a very blustery (but, so far, sunny) west Cornwall, awaiting ex-huricane Ophelia. It's not expected to strike Cornwall in any big way, but there will likely be a lot of rain and wind damage, so I'm half expecting the lights to go out at some point later today. Ireland will likely receive the full brunt of it, so if you're in Ireland and reading this, please take care.

I hope to be back to blogging shortly, and am reconsidering the best way to breathe life back into it. Since I started this blog a few years back, my personal interests have shifted somewhat. Yammering on about collapse has proved to be mostly ineffective in terms of shifting the issue into any kind of media spotlight, and so now it appears that we are going to be hitting the brick wall of reality headfirst anyway. I hope you are all wearing crash helmets.

To that end, I'm thinking about focusing my writings mainly on resilience. What can we do to make the best of our situations? How can we help one another by building networks and making our individual nodes more resilient? I've been working on future-proofing myself (as much as is reasonably possible) for these last few years, and so I'd like to share my thoughts on this and open up the conversation a little. Becoming personally resilient, I have discovered, is an iterative process and can only be part-learned from books and blogs. What's more there are many aspects to it and many weak links in the chain that can trip you up.

Bye for now. 


  1. Jason

    Greetings from the other end of the English Channel, the weather is warm and bright here!

    Good to hear that you're still around.

    I think my feelings regarding the current state of the nation, and the world in general, are similar to yours. Things have been slowly declining, to my mind since the 1980's or possibly earlier, and the dream we were sold of a techno future won't be happening, certainly not for the majority. However, it is difficult to determine when, and at what speed, the downturn will become clear to all. In the meantime the best option seems to be to live as satisfying and happy life as one's situation allows whilst making whatever provision one can for the proverbial rainy day.

    I've enjoy your print and internet work in the past, and look forward to doing so again in tge future.

    Regards, Paul

    1. Hello Paul. I'd agree that things have been declining for quite some time (since 1914?) - but I also recognise that living in a bubble has made things appear to be better. I was born in 1971 - the year the USD was unpegged from the gold standard - so my entire life has been lived in an experiment with fiat money. This fiat money has enabled many things, but it turns out they were all bought on credit from the future, and most of it will not be payable back. This will all be as clear as daylight one day, but for the time being most are happy to just take their cues from this failing culture and not think too deeply about anything.

      So, yes, I don't see any point in giving in to gloom. I think we are living through one of the greatest transformation in human consciousness there has ever been - better catch that wave and ride it rather than be dragged under!

  2. Glad to hear that you're alive and well, Jason. Thanks for warning us all about the dangers of angle grinders in one of our previous posts. I think of you now, every time I use my angle grinder and your story had made me more careful.
    Yeah, predictions of imminent collapse become tiresome after a while. And I suppose the thing to do at some point is to prepare for it, even if it isn't imminent.
    Collapse comes in many forms. For us it was getting kicked out of the house we were renting, an event that made us get serious about our plans to hit the road. The eviction came as a shock, but at the same time, we saw it as a blessing, no more dawdling in our comfortable nest.
    We've been staying at a friend's farm the last six month tending a large garden for our host and also watching the farm workers do their stuff.
    I have concluded that I do not want to be a farmer, a small time gardener maybe, but not a full out farmer. In a post-industrial society I would like to be doing something a little easier.
    Collapse comes in many flavors of course and I always suspected that financial collapse would get us first and environmental collapse would come a little later. Turns out that at least in the US, environmental collapse is hitting us sooner than I thought it would. There are of course the hurricanes which hit Texas and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico overnight was converted from borderline third world bankrupt ex colony to bonafide third world island with no electricity or communication.
    Northern CA has turned into a wildfire extravaganza. Damage is mostly to wild land.
    The fires and the hurricanes do damage in restricted regions, but their impact is sufficient to change where people will be living in the future. Climate refugees will be increasingly more common in the years to come.
    Where to live and who to live with and how to live will all be good questions to find answers to in the coming years.
    Our own approach is to drive around while there is still motor fuel to look for a place where we could land, a place that is small enough and isolated enough to not be overly dependent on industrial society and where we would also stand a chance of becoming part of the community.
    One thing we learned on our current farm stay is that we want to be nearer to a town. Currently, we have to drive 30 miles one way to the nearest super market and laundry. We have taken to living mostly off the farm produce and doing more hand washing. So all in all a good experience.
    We are also setting up some solar panels on our small truck, but I think that longer term we will be better off learning to live without electricity as much as possible.
    In another month we will be taking to the road and living out of our truck, driving around, camping, couch surfing with friends and renting the occasional room or small apartment for longer stays in hospitable places.

    1. Hi Wolfgang - nice to hear from you. Sorry to hear about your accommodation problems. It sounds like you have a sensible plan in looking for somewhere new to live. I might even say it sounds a bit like an adventure - who knows what will come of it?

      Yes - there have been plenty of scary events recently haven't there? The 'hurricane' we were warned about yesterday failed to manifest itself to any great extent, although it did turn the skies a spooky yellow colour which - we were told - was sand from the Sahara and ash from Spain and Portugal, much of which is on fire at the moment.

      Speaking of fire, I watched a few videos of people escaping the fires in California - truly scary stuff. It makes me grateful that I live in an area not prone to that kind of disaster. On the contrary, in fact, we tend to get 'too much' water, which is causing all sorts of issues with mould and damp in my house.

      Anyway, I hope the travels go well and you find some good places to stay.

    2. Wolfgang and Jason -- I've been pondering many of the same things, and coming to a realization like Wolfgang that environmental collapse is happening faster than I'd previously thought. This thought, though perhaps a little premature yet, is shaping many of my ideas for the path ahead.

      I began homesteading with great gusto about a decade ago, moving from Washington State to Michigan (with land about 1/5th the cost) in order to accomplish my goals. In the elapsed time, I've learned to farm with draft horses, learned to drive a smaller horse for pulling buggies and wagons, learned to run a small dairy, shear sheep, raise chickens, hogs, keep bees, tan cow and other hides, make shoes, garden effectively, put up hay exclusively with horses, heat and cook exclusively with wood, run an orchard, blacksmith, timberframe... you name it, and there's a good chance I've done it, without fossil fuels or electricity.

      But because we still live in an industrialized world, most of these skills are considered "hobbies" from an economic perspective, and I still had to work in the regular economy to make money, typically topping 75 hours a week between the two. I'm exhausted, and like Wolfgang says, farming is a lot of work, particularly when done without the benefit of diesel fuel.

      This last summer we were stuck in a drought, drying out our pastures and greatly increasing the need for purchased hay. It's happened before, and could easily throw a monkey wrench into our plans if such hay were no longer available. (I'm the only person I know that puts hay up without diesel, and that includes many Amish acquaintances) Climate modeling suggests we'll soon lose our forests as well here in Michigan, as the water in the growing season fails to materialize. With the hurricanes and fires this year (my former town in Washington was blanketed in smoke for weeks -- something I *never* saw growing up), I'm beginning to think that climate collapse is coming faster than expected. Homesteading can help us adapt to industrial collapse, but doesn't do much in terms of environmental collapse.

      As one of my neighbors recently noted in a half-joking half-serious sort of way, guns trump preparations, and there are plenty of the former in this area, and virtually none of the latter. I'm no better prepared than the rest of my community in light of this, despite all my activities over the last decade.

      I'm thinking at this point that perhaps it's best to stop swimming against the current, and return to Washington to spend as many my days sailing on Puget Sound as I can.

    3. Wolfgang,

      I think of Jason's story as well every time I fire up my angle grinder, which is often. Regular use of a power tool can engender a complacency that is both dangerous and inappropriate.

      My wife and I came to pretty much the same conclusions as you: we would rather garden than become full time farmers, spending that time pursuing other trades. I am training to be a blacksmith, and my wife an herbalist. We've also found that living in a small town (about 3000 souls) with essential services like a grocer and post office is a must. We don't want to isolate ourselves out in the boonies. My prediction is that those homes in the country will be the first to lose services like electricity, communication and roads as the slow collapse of industrial society continues. They will need to be entirely self-sufficient in order to survive, let alone thrive.

      I also think that that's a pretty tall order because it's been a long while since any of us in the developed world have had to know or use skills of self-sufficiency. We have a big learning curve ahead of us and it would be wise to err on the side of trusting we don't know enough to make it on our own.

      Keep at it; it sounds like you are on an interesting journey!


    4. Hi David. Your story sounds very inspiring - and I recognise your quandary. With my own piece of land I've learned a few skills involving coppicing, charcoal making, growing fruit crops, orchards etc - but in monetary terms it has earned me next to nothing. That's why I have decided to step back from it for a couple of years and get my house in order - and given that my land is a woodland all that's going to happen is that it'll grow in my absence.

      When eventually there is some kind of economic paradigm change, the skills we have learned now will have increased in value. At least that's what I'm hoping :-)

  3. Jason
    Have enjoyed your writing - (including 'Path to Odin's Lake') - glad you are back.

    Wind no worse than usual brief gale overnight on the Eastern Border with Scotland. The fore runner weather was odd. It was almost dark at 2pm yesterday - darker than the near total eclipse some years ago. The phrase 'stygian gloom' came to mind. Then the looming yellow sky and the red sun burning through added a nice artistic touch. Waiting for the storm!

    Yesterday’s ‘waiting’ could be a metaphor for the long drawn out changing economy. The last 10 stalled years in West/Japan have given no clear indication when ‘the next big one' might change the globalised picture. My guess like yours is 1914 as the inflection year for Western history, but there is still a lot of fuel left to burn globally. The USA as the partly hollowed-out centre of the global system is being tested we guess. California geologically is a fire-swept ecosystem, witness Redwoods as climax vegetation. But civilisations have built on the slopes of volcanoes and across fault lines and on flood plains and got away with it for whiles. Cornwall might be easier and future generations welcome those olive trees (?) you were trying, if I remember.

    very best

    1. Hi Phil. Thanks for your vote of confidence ;-) I was waiting for the bad bad weather to hit us but it turned out to be a damp squib. Well, not so damp, actually - it was bright sunshine all day. But the wind was ferocious earlier. I went down to the beach and it was covered in Portuguese man of war jellyfish. These were literally being flung off the surface by the winds - apparently a few of them hit some shoppers in town (and let's not forget, they have dangerous stinging tentacles). There's probably a message in that somewhere.

      As for the economy, I see it as running on fumes at the moment. I think the next few years will see some huge bankruptcies in the oil industry - they are already borrowing huge sums of money just to pay shareholders dividends. When that happens no amount of Teslas, or windmills or solar panels will resurrect the easy life we've been enjoying in the Oil Age. Still, nature will benefit in many ways from our reduced power. Including, maybe, those olive trees I planted (which are doing quite well).

  4. Jason,

    I'm glad to hear you're still around. Life gets busier and busier, sometimes in good ways, but I think it's safe to say we're all feeling the pinch.

    I've always admired your candor with your blog. You share both your successes and failures and in the world of social media's "me-me-me with spit-polish" it's refreshing to see some honesty and humility.

    Across the province of Alberta where I live we just had municipal elections, and it got me thinking about community resilience and what leadership roles (if any) could play a part in it. Perhaps it's my lack of imagination, but I just can't fathom the electorate supporting a politician who's willing to tell it like it is. To borrow a phrase from JMG, "there is no brighter future" (a useful counterspell to the influence of Progress). In a land inoculated with the idea that tomorrow will be the same, only better, how do we begin to form those communities which must be built around entirely different cultural values such as consuming less, buying local, building local economies, etc. as well as letting go of efficiencies to build resiliency? No politician would campaign on such a platform (that I know of.)

    I would love to read your thoughts on resiliency, and how you and your family have done on that difficult and rewarding journey. My family has had its share of trip ups and setbacks, along with some modest successes. Sharing and comparing notes would be valuable to me.

    Keep up the good work, Jason! I pray to the gods you and your family get through that ex-hurricane safely.


    1. Hi Tim - yes, a lot more people are feeing the pinch these days. I was just reading this morning that something like 15 million people in Britain are is such a perilous state financially that even the slightest economic hiccup will be disastrous for them. This will have wide-ranging knock-on effects in terms of the systems that are there as a safety net for people - systems, I might add, that are already in a very parlous state.

      As far as politics goes, it is indeed difficult to foresee how anyone could be elected on a promise of 'less'. However, that said, in this dawning age I think that the idea of making people's lives more secure is a message that would resonate with many a voter. I did, jokingly, once say to JMG in the comments section of his blog that I was going to run in the local elections with a 'Peak Oil Party' (POP). His response was that it wouldn't be a bad idea at all simply because it would get the idea out there. First they laugh at you ...

      Honesty and humility? Pah - I can't go in for the fake stuff. Life's too short. Actually, I saw a tongue in cheek birthday wish recently which read "Happy birthday - may your life be as great as you make it out to be on Facebook". Made me laugh, anyway.

  5. Another one glad you are back here! And apologising if I am one of the "unresponsive" - it's been a hell of a summer, one way or another. I was perfectly happy with nearly all of your amendments, but running too hard in too many other directions to tell you that. And far from out of the woods yet... sometimes my life seems downright peculiar.

    I spent some years trying to build resilience in our community, but after meeting brick wall after brick wall, came to the conclusion that actually, this community just isn't interested. My over-riding impression was that we're well-to-do here, and prefer to keep ourselves to ourselves; as long as we attract the right kind of "upmarket" shops, what could possibly go wrong? That food bank bin in the supermarket? Must be for people elsewhere, we just don't have any "poor" here, and we don't want to attract them, do we...? So we'll build exclusive executive housing estates with pocket-hanky gardens (and a couple of "social" flats round by the bins, if we really must) to double the size of our little town, with no corresponding increase in facilities...

    But I have finally managed to interest my Other Half in growing food. Now he wants to go off & buy a remote rural property with acreage... round here, that would entail taking on a mortgage again. So I'm trying to persuade him that a house with some kind of earning potential and a biggish garden, preferably within walking distance of some facilities, would be a better idea. Not too far from friends or family, and hopefully the railway, too, as I hope that will be able to keep going for longer than individual modes of transport. If we were in our thirties and our kids were small, rather than a couple of nearly-60s with young adults still at home, maybe going deeply rural would be do-able, but awareness of the odd encroaching health niggle, not to mention potential fuel price volatility, makes me think we shouldn't be too far from "civilisation". Or at least a shop, a GP and a dentist...

    A vignette of things going gradually downhill; my mother is 91, and a huge supporter of the NHS, as she can remember life without it. A few years ago, she & my stepfather (since deceased) moved to a "sheltered" accommodation flat in the centre of our county town, 400 yards from the County Hospital, as she'd become terrified that in an emergency, the ambulance might take too long to reach them. Yesterday at 6.30 am, she had a health crisis (suspected heart attack) an ambulance was called, and it took 50 minutes to reach her... there'd been a big crash on the main road, the ambulance had to come from a town 15 miles further west, and the main road over the hills was blocked. We spent several hours in A&E and the "assessment" ward and it took all my persistence to get her assessed by an actual doctor; they'd mentioned sending her home again several times before the consultant finally appeared. He took one look at her, 10 hours after the event, and admitted her to the Cardiac Care unit. It's nothing to do with "NHS Death Camps" or ageism; there just was no senior doctor available, for anyone, thanks to "Austerity".

    They say you can judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable members. Whilst I'd hesitate to call my feisty & mostly-independent mother vulnerable, I'm none too proud of belonging to a society that can leave an old lady, who has served society well all her life, breathless and in considerable pain for ten hours and fifty minutes...

    1. Hi TW - very sorry to hear you have been having a tough time of it this summer. Don't worry about the story - I thought it was good and I'm sure Joel would as well. Incidentally, I'm not the only one abandoning an anthology, John Michael Greer has quietly binned his latest deindustrial sci-fi anthology due to a dearth of entries. Perhaps the time has not yet come for such a genre - or maybe it has but people are just not that interested.

      In terms of community building I have similar thoughts to you. I have tried to get the people living on my road talking to one another, and set up a little online group to that end. A few took to it but most people ignored it. Some, that did participate, used it as a forum to attack one another, others used it bellyache about parking and the council, one person used it as a soapbox for shouting about how much they hate Donald Trump/Brexit/or whatever, and one person openly mocked the whole effort and implied I was being a busybody (seriously? I'm a complete introvert and a libertarian - the polar opposite of a busybody).

      So, it was a bit of a learning process. I really do find it hard trying to connect and be a part of a community. My experience has been that most people who put themselves out there as 'community leaders' are merely virtue signalling egotists grubbing around after a bit of grant money. They are almost all well-off university educated and middle class, with zero ability to engage with people from outside their own comfortable bubble. The fact that I recognised this - and said so - has left me pretty much ostracised. Shit, I can't even go to the local farmers market any more without bumping into them. Again, this has been a learning process, so it's all good fuel for discussion about the dynamics of community building as collapse happens. I'm not implying that there isn't a good way to build community resilience, but I do suspect that one needs to 'think outside the box' on this one.

      Hope your mum gets better soon. As Nicole Foss says 'we are entering the age of broken promises' and the idea that the NHS will look after us into old age is perhaps one of them.

    2. Regarding health care in Britain, a friend of mine is a consultant surgeon and he warned me some time ago that the near future will see the shrinking of service coverage, loss of certain fields of specialism, and concentration of resources in mega-centres.

      He works at one such, which is 10 mins down the road. It looks like a small town seen form the train, endless resourcws poured into it. He advised me to live in a prosperou area, as near possible to such a centre, but avoid over-stretched hospitals, however large, in major cities - such as the major London hospitals.

      Increasingly, good surgeons and physicians will not want to work in the subsidiary hospitals,as they will be recognised as 2nd or 3rd-rate and almost damaging to one's career to work there, and also one has to consider whether there are good schools for their children, and other elements of an attractive lifestyle -they like anyone else want to live in nice place when off-duty.

      Still, maybe one would conclude that trading some years of good living outside the rat-race might compensate for early death fom neglect or complications?

  6. Building resilience and community is at the heart of the SUN project, so I look forward to your writings on this topic.

    I write on these topics quite often, but I still find tracking and observing the progress of collapse to be great fodder for thought and for analysis. I never have a problem finding what to write on these days! From Harvey to Maria, the whole Hurricane Train was a good 5 weeks worth of blogs, sometimes more than 1/week.

    Of course, I'm a mostly homebound cripple with a lot of time on his hands, which makes a difference in how much material you can generate each week.


    1. I always read your stuff and watch your vids - even if I don't often comment. What with all these hurricane and other natural (and not so natural) disasters, there's plenty to write about. My problem is finding the time, but hopefully I will have a bit more time soon as the hotel I work at is closing down for the winter for repairs.

      Keep up the good work!

  7. Glad to see a new post, and the more of us thinking and sharing resilience as a focus the better. An engineering term I like to use as a touchstone is "graceful degradation". It is used usually in the realm of computers, electronics, and control systems, but the concept could be applied to other areas of concern. It is defined as the ability of a system to continue partial function even after loss of some components. The technological ladder we have been climbing has most of the lower rungs kicked out, with no good retreat path, but with some thought, I like to think we can begin replacing those rungs, both on the personal and local community level.

    While redundancy as seen in the natural world is part of it, asking "what if" questions, and always considering the alternative means that might exist for a given end is also part of smart design.

    So much to do. As you note, once trees have roots in the ground, they need less attention, and will continue doing their thing while you work on other near focus tasks. Good luck to you and your family in weathering the coming hard times.

  8. I'd love to read more on resilience and be able to compare notes with others in similar or different situations from my own.

    1. Hi Steve and Mitty. I think being resilient boils down to the art of living well. I'll expand a lot on this in my subsequent posts. That is my intention.

  9. Hi Jason,

    Total respect. That is a hard row to hoe that realisation, and I am genuinely pleased to read about your new direction.

    I hope things are settling down for you now that the tourists are heading home. How is the woodlot going? Did you get many hazelnuts this past season?

    The growing season down here looks pretty good so far, but things can change at short notice and without warning. One must not count their apricots and almonds before they're harvested! Hehe!


    1. Hi Chris. Yes - being in a tourist boom means working yourself half to death in the summer and then getting the time to do the other things you need to do in the winter. Luckily (!) the hotel where I work is closing for two months over winter, so I'll have time to focus on writing the next instalment in my book series (after Seat of Mars), do a bit of travelling, and spend some quality time down at the woodland cutting wood and doing planting and general maintenance work.

      Hehe - almonds! I managed to grow one this year. Yes, that's right - one almond! I'm pretty excited about it, however, as it's my first one on the tree I planted four years ago (which has grown very well). It means the tree is self-fertile - something I had not been sure of - and that I will get plenty more almonds in the future from it.



I'll try to reply to comments as time permits.