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Is TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) Real? Yes and No.

Today’s letter was prompted by a reader that sent me a letter last night. The question is simple:

Is there such a thing as TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it)?

Yes. The system we are part of is in decline. We can all feel, see, and smell it….

All of the major trend lines — economic, social, political, financial, environmental, etc. — support this conclusion.

NOTE: I’m optimistic things will eventually get better as we become more resilient. Our historical experience with prior declines and the evidence I’m accumulating suggests that a new, re-localized system will rise quickly to replace it. The trick is to become part of that new, rising system as early as is practicable.

In the meantime, the decline of the tired, corrupted global system most of us are dependent on is in the foreground, and its decline naturally causes anxiety.

Unfortunately, this anxiety has led some people to assume that there will be a simple, apocalyptic end point.

There won’t be. Real life isn’t Hollywood.

No zombies. No perpetual global blackout due to a massive solar flare. No pandemic that kills 99.99% of the population. No nuclear war/winter. No alien invasion.

Nothing that looks like this picture:

So, if the current system is failing, what will it look like?

A lot like today, but worse. A debased version of what we grew up in punctuated by extreme events.

Here’s an example.

In the US, we saw a 1.5% drop in the median income last year. A drop that was on top of decades of economic failure. It’s so bad, we’re now passing (on the way down) by levels of household wealth and income we last saw in the late seventies! We aren’t alone, Japan and much Europe is experiencing the same thing right now.

Here’s another example.

Global climate change is now inevitable, based on things we did decades ago and a complete failure of our political system to do anything about what is going on right now. It’s coming and we’re seeing ever increasing extremes in our weather (like this off the charts drought in Texas and the new Dust Bowl that is forming there).

I could go on and on, but suffice to say: the anxiety we feel is real, but the process driving us there is slow, even though we may see occasional spikes on the way.  Like what? The 2008 financial crash or Greek/Spain/Ireland defaults or massive droughts/fires/storms.

So, the big question is how do you avoid getting sucked into this decline?

It’s simple. Use a balanced and incremental approach. Avoid extremes, they are exhausting.

A balanced and incremental approach to becoming resilient will keep you, your spouse, your kids, your co-workers, and your neighbors both happy and prosperous with every step forwards.

One final thought. It’s important to remember that this transition period is a long game that will take decades to play out. It’s not a hand of poker or Russian roulette. It won’t be settled in an afternoon or over tea.

A long game requires a balancing act to win.

Sincerely,

JOHN ROBB

PS: How do you pull this off this balancing act? What do I do right now? This is what my new premium service will cover. Hope you will join me when I launch it this month.

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  • While I try to remain optimistic, I think I’m also a realist.
    Every artifact that supports our existence has built into it a factor that is reliant on hydrocarbon energy. There may be exceptions, but I can’t think of any. certainly nothing of any real importance
    We do not have the means to replicate these things in any other way, but we will collectively demand that our lifestyle goes on undisturbed by reality.
    A return to the bucolic bliss of a pre industrial lifestyle means a return to the unpleasantness that went with it.
    This also means that conflict is inevitable as we ‘fight against the dying of the light’

    • Dave

      Scarecities:

      I was out in the country the other day talking to some locals. They were complaining about fracking. Didn’t want no frackin’ in their county. I look behind them and see F-250 4WD’s and SUV’s. Did they make the connection between gluttony for one sort of carbon and the incursion of the industry into their county for another sort of carbon? No. I didn’t say anything. I know some of them get it; majority doesn’t.

      Which means it’s a government issue. The government, or governments, have to step in and legislate the greatest good for the greatest number. It’s up to the government to mandate a minimum MPG rating and thereby ration carbon energy. Of course this goes against the macho American ego, both rural and country dweller.

      To that I say, “tough shit”. They’re worried now that they know what a desperate thing fracking is. As if the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf didn’t wake them up–drilling 10,000 feet of water to get oil. Aquifers destroyed by fracking pollutants makes them nervous. I guess they’re going to learn the hard way, when greed for hydrocarbons spills over big time into greed for natural gas. Government, in the pockets of the energy lobbies, ain’t going to do what’s right.

      • Dave

        I meant to say, both rural and city dwellers.

      • different clue

        Or . . . government could legislate a tax on oil and oil products high enough to encourage conservation by punishing use.

      • Fork Freedom

        Why is the government the answer to everything? You need to get resilient without your government. Do not count on the State as it is in the pockets of the oil companies. It will not help you.

        In fact, the State is what has us in this mess in the first place. Take a look at this: http://c4ss.org/content/12561 Note that resilience plays a dual role in protecting yourself from the brunt of upheaval and helping move toward beautiful visions of society as it might be without rule by the corporatocracy.

  • Dustin

    This view is very similar to an interesting man I got a chance to have dinner with one night, Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre.
    http://www.themodernsurvivalist.com/
    He’s from Argentina and lived through the collapse there.

    I am of the less optimistic opinion that it is very possible to flip one of three ways: the “slow decline” of America into another Argentina-like financial/social collapse; a “catastrophic” collapse where one of several dangerous scenarios may present themselves, such as nuclear war, world-wide pandemic, or engineered tyranny/martial law/end of the Constitution; or a combination of the two. I cannot ignore the possibility that this may happen in the future, and attempt to prepare for it.

    This only reinforces the need to join a Resilient Community. It is the reason I moved out of the cities.

  • Excellent post. I, too, believe that the decline of the World as We Know It will not be sudden but will happen over time and we will notice and feel it gradually. I, personally, am already feeling and seeing it happen. Thank goodness, though, now that I am “awake” that I may have time to get my affairs in order to live in accordance with nature and it’s laws, rather than clinging to the old ways of doing things.

  • I’m tracking this stuff over at my website, and I’m losing sleep. China is getting close to combat with Japan over the Senkaku Islands. Both Russia and China have threatened nuclear war over Iran. Russia has extended that threat to the entire Middle East. And, of course, Israel is threatening to bomb Iran any day now. That will be like throwing a match at a gas can.

    Nuclear war is a real possibility, but you don’t believe that. That’s why our government has gutted our nuclear weapons. The deterrence we once had is gone because everybody is convinced nuclear war is impossible. On my website I explain why nuclear war is more possible now than ever before.

    • John Robb

      Matt,

      We’re not gutting the arsenal (although some want to do that). I see a role for nukes since they have proven good at preventing wars between big countries (i.e. WW3).

      JR

  • I am hoping that you are not as absolute as it sounds when you said, “No perpetual global blackout due to a massive solar flare. No pandemic that kills 99.99% of the population. No nuclear war/winter.”

    While the chance of that sort of thing happening in our lifetimes is small, they are nevertheless possible (except for the “99.99%” figure). Highly unlikely? Yes. “Never going to happen”? No.

    Logic tells us that we need to prepare first for changes that are most likely, and that is what your posts have been about. Making blanket assumptions that the most dire of changes will “never” happen and can be disregarded is rather bold, to say the least. Assuming that there will “never” be a situation where electricity and other utilities are out for months, years, or even generations, when something as simple as having a hand-pumped well would make the difference between life and death is taking optimism to a place well beyond reason.

    I hope that you will clarify that a bit.

    • John Robb

      Stephen,

      Extreme examples are great at unearthing vulnerabilities and they are also great vehicles for movie plots.

      The point I am trying to make: with a tidal wave of less sexy disasters heading our way with a very high degree of certainty, it would be imprudent to spend too much time preparing for the remote chance that an extreme event will occur.

      Fortunately, the more you make yourself resilient, the less exposed you, your family, and your community is to any global disaster.

      JR

  • Lawrence Eger

    Our farmers are the most vulnerable group in this complex system of food production. When young people do not entertain becoming farmers and our current average age of a farmer is around sixty in the USA. A natural void of intelligence to pass along the knowledge to be a farmer is in question. More smaller farms will be the norm but who will want to become a farmer is perhaps the more relevant question as the ability to secure land to farm is a very large hurdle to making that possible. But like WWII when younger people were encouraged to go to the fields to support the food system in a time of national crisis, people of intelligence will move closer to the farming communities to secure food in these sliding economic realities as the food system diversifies and collapses as climate becomes more sever.

  • Alem Yodr

    For many of us we have an end of the world as we KNEW it.
    Those that believe, “there will always be wars and rumors of wars” take hope that a better day may be ahead and then find out war again is the subject of talk. Sort of an endless cycle to life/WAR/LIFE.
    When we get leaders that we really know ZIP about their background nor anything about facts that are solid, then we have lost our peace of mind AND thus
    “our” peace of mind AND our world has shattered. So many questions with only vague answers fail to sooth the minds of the hopeful.
    SO TO ANSWER THE QUESTION –YES, IT IS THE END OF THE WORLD WE HAVE KNOWN. IT IS VERY REAL.
    ECONOMIC DEPRESSION AND PERSONAL DEPRESSION FOLLOWS IN LINE.

  • I think as we get to the end of the oil, we’ll have more and more disruption. There will also be opportunities for salvage brokers, repair shops, junk shops, to make things from scraps, etc. Plastic (if they stop producing it) will become more and more brittle and we’ll have to revert to using and re-using glass bottles and jars, clay jars, and wooden barrels. Save your wine bottles!

    As the gubmint tries to control everyone more and more, and things get more expensive, there will be more people finding ways to squeeze life in around the corners. There will be workarounds, secret victory gardens, underground workshops, bootleggers, and amateur herbalists or doctors who don’t want to participate in Obamacare or whatever it becomes, and end up working under the table. There will also be purveyors in high-tech, which might end up being officially limited to the elite/gubmint officials, but there will always be a black market.

    One thing that will always be in high demand on the black market (besides chocolate, booze, food, and tobacco if they are scarce due to war) will be anything that gets around a control system: credentials that get you in places, fake ID’s, special RFID spoofing or just insulating materials, disguises, special weapons.

    Already people are setting up their bartering networks for when the SHTF. I know several people who make knives, a guy with a water powered lumber mill, a hobby farmer who I buy beef from, a guy who hunts and reloads ammo, more than a few handymen, two furniture makers, some electronics repairmen, two or three leather workers – well you get the idea. I’ve also been collecting how-to books like crazy. All the old tech is going to come back into style.

    The high tech is all going to be about controlling people, but maybe the Maker community can keep a foot in the door and equalize things.

  • Dustin

    Penny Pincher,
    your post sounds a lot like the the world moving that much closer to the Hunger Games world setting, which I think is the real goal of some devious people out there. I’m concerned that this may be the future my kids will move into.
    I too have been collecting how-to books like crazy since 2000. I have three bookshelves full, and many, many ebooks, since I may be in a situation where I can’t take the heavy books with me. I would like to get a book scanner to backup all the books I own.
    My big goal would be to open a TechShop-like Hackerspace, but with low-lech options and tools and classes as well. Essentially it would be a Practical Skills and small Business-generator for the whole community, but that’s going to take either investors or boatloads of money. Baby steps.

    The more skills and abilities we learn, and the closer we can move to a lifestyle of being less dependent on governments or corporations to furnish our daily needs (food/shelter/water/energy/income)and more inter-dependent with our neighbors, the better off everyone will be.

    • james

      Could it be all for naught considering the velocity the Chinese are moving at with Coal plants and resource consumption in general? Can it be stopped if only 2 billion people are on board?

    • Marcus Wynne

      Penny Pincher and Dustin: Good points. Check out my previous posting here on RC on “Jumpstarting a Barter Economy.”

      For scanning books, I use these guys: extremely reliable, fast and inexpensive: http://www.blueleaf-book-scanning.com/

      For a resilient way of storing your scanned books, consider picking up a used iPod, later version that you can store PDFs or Kindle or Text files on. Load all your resilience, survival, whatever handbooks on the PDF and make sure you have a USB dongle charger for it; then use one of these in a worst-case scenario: http://biolitestove.com/campstove/camp-overview/features/ I’m putting mine through rigorous testing, and it’s extremely cool to be able to charge your iPod, iPhone or other cell phone with this stove using scavenged bio-mass. That way you will always have your library available to you (though backups are a good idea; older iPods are pretty cheap and PDFs etc. don’t take up as much room as videos, etc.). There are some good solar powers for iPod type units as well, pretty robust and not too badly priced. Watch for more on specific testing of that equipment here.

      cheers, m “The Resilient Nomad”

  • Steve Munson

    re:”Extreme examples are great at unearthing vulnerabilities and they are also great vehicles for movie plots.

    The point I am trying to make: with a tidal wave of less sexy disasters heading our way with a very high degree of certainty, it would be imprudent to spend too much time preparing for the remote chance that an extreme event will occur.

    Fortunately, the more you make yourself resilient, the less exposed you, your family, and your community is to any global disaster.”
    My thought: Being resilient IS not only preparing for less sexy disasters but also for the high probability(not remote chance) of an extreme event occurring.

    • John Robb

      Steve,

      Exactly. Except the way you approach it is different. One requires upfront expense (gear/cans/guns — the sale of which funds all of the sites out there) and the other is actually just an improvement to your current life (community/production/income). Additionally, if you live and participate in a resilient community, you are prepared for disaster/collapse in ways that (gear/cans/guns) will never match.

      JR

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