The Doomer

The Doomer is convinced that we have already overstretched the earth’s resources and distorted social equity to the point that environmental and socioeconomic breakdown is inevitable.

Some are hunkering down to survive in a dystopian wasteland, while others are looking for constructive ways to prepare for a postindustrial world, trying to create a soft landing by working together to make it happen. Either way their primary investments are made according to the close-to-home strategy, with survivalists focusing more on personal and tangible assets and skills, and soft-landers putting significant energy into community and regional resilience.

Some will move all of their money out of the global economy column; others may keep a foot in that world, ready to divest when things really start to crumble. There will be little focus on the evolutionary column, as the emphasis is more on hunkering down with their guns, solar panels, and food or on reviving preindustrial rhythms of local self-sufficiency. Still, a few of those who have concluded that we are doomed will continue to put energy into evolutionary initiatives, including personal growth, ecosystem regeneration, and new forms of currency and exchange. Indeed, for many in this camp, breakdown scenarios offer the potential for genuinely increased quality of life on community and personal levels.

Bracing for climate-driven food system shock?

A fascinating and somewhat scary article from Jeff Masters at Weather Underground paints a very plausible picture of how climate change could trigger a confluence of weather-related impacts around the globe that, together, lead to an unprecedented shock to the global food system.  He fleshes out a report put together by Lloyd’s of London, which posited several events around the world, including an El Niño-driven drought from India through Southeast Asia to Australia (triggering a 6-20% reduction in key grain harvests), along with floods in the Mississippi basin creating a 7-27% hit on US grain, and torrential rains and landslides causing a 10% drop in Pakistan and the Himalayan lowlands.  The addition of a couple of plant-diseases in South America and western Asia add some more 10% reductions to regional harvests, with the cumulative result being a world-wide food crisis.

We’ve had hints of this in the past, as when US floods in 1993 (pictured above) caused US corn production to fall 33%, or the 60% spikes in global food priced during two Russian droughts (pictured below); the more recent one occurred in the same year as damaging floods in Canada and Pakistan, both of which also contributed.


What’s different in the Lloyd’s of London analysis is the idea that climate change could trigger several large impacts at once.  Instead of 60% increases in food prices seen in the “bad” years within recent memory, they suggest we could see global food prices leap to 4 or 5 times the norm, which are likely to trigger all manner of social upheaval and tragedy of the sort that tends to trigger us to plunge our heads into the nearest hole in the sand. . . .

It will probably say something about your own comfort with risk to hear that Lloyd’s sees this worst-case scenario as having about a 20% chance of happening during the next forty years.  Even if we dodge those odds, the chart above is a reminder that one or a few modest disruptions can have a huge impact on the global food system.  It seems prudent for resilient investors to have at least an awareness of these risks, and, if possible, a plan in place for how to respond if food prices spike.


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Preparedness tips for non-preppers

OK, so you’re totally on board with The Resilient Investor‘s goal of being “ready for anything”—you’ve clarified your own idea of where the world seems to be headed, while also realizing that you don’t really know when or how one of the countless wild cards in play might change the game in fundamental ways.  You get that focusing significant energy Close to Home will pay off no matter how the future unfolds; perhaps you’re also committed to pushing our society in those enticing Evolutionary directions.

And yes, you recognize that there is a chance of painful disruptions to life here on American Easy Street.  Maybe you think any hiccups are unlikely to be severe . . . or you harbor a secret dread that’s too nebulous to really figure out how to address.  You certainly aren’t into being a serious Prepper, stockpiling supplies, fine-tuning a “go-bag,” and overlaying that kind of dire filter onto your day to day life.  If it comes to that, you figure we’re all toast, or we’ll all be in it together, and there are better ways to spend your time in the here and now.  But you also have a niggling sense that you could be a little more prepared for a  societal speed bump: it’s not so hard to imagine some sort of grid snafu (cyber-attack or solar flare) or regional weather or terror event that could make things rough for a week, or maybe even a few.  Just-in-time supply chains, vulnerable water supplies, our reliance on fuels and electricity. . . yeah, there are a few weak links out there.

While we’ve pointed to writers and resources that aim to help you prepare for various Breakdown scenarios, if you don’t really identify as a “Doomer,” you’ve probably held off on digging into all that very deeply.  Well, here’s a less-scary entry point for those of you that have been thinking you really consider doing something: a well-curated collection of The Best Emergency Preparedness Supplies from the good folks at Sweethome/Wirecutter.  

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James Howard Kuntsler: The Long Emergency

James Howard Kuntsler is a widely respected critic of our society’s overshoot and imbalances. His books include reflections of urbanism, place, and, most famously, the disruptions likely to occur in our society as a result of the end of the era of cheap oil, and the repercussions of climate change.

Kunstler’s website, including an active blog

Book: The Long Emergency
In The Long Emergency, published by Atlantic Monthly Press, Kunstler looks ahead to the implications of the trends of declining oil production, climate change, and other challenges that shock the system, and sees major implications on every aspect of life.

Video: The Long Emergency
This video includes two parts (separate files on YouTube) and features Kunstler discussing Peak Oil and the Long Emergency that lies ahead.



Richard Heinberg: Beyond “peak everything”

It’s always a dicey proposition to tuck any of our key “thought leaders” into any one D-Type cubbyhole, perhaps none more so than Richard Heinberg.  We’ve included him among the Doomers thanks to his longtime leadership on the issue of Peak Oil, and more recently, the “peak everything” challenges that face an economy predicated on constant growth within an inherently limited biosphere.  So, we suggest reading and listening to Heinberg as a clear voice that sees our current system being likely to hit some extremely rough patches; but bear in mind that in his role as a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, he is also hard at work charting the path toward a viable, if much less energy-intensive, global future; in this, he could easily be considered a Dealer or Driver.
Good quick bio of Heinberg, along with links to his most recent writings on Resilience.orgRichard Heinberg’s website

Video: The Party’s Over
In this 5-part presentation, Heinberg addresses how peak oil, and thus required shift away from fossil fuels, is impacting our economy and our life.

Video: Peak Everything
In this 5-part video, Heinberg looks ahead at this century of declining resources.

Essay: Two Realities.
In this essay from his newsletter, Heinberg looks at the conflict between the physical and political realities of our planet, on which infinite growth is not possible, and our political and economic systems, which require endless growth. He warns that our only hope to minimize future human suffering and ecosystem collapse is to come to terms with the physical limits that political realities attempt to deny, ignore, or hide.

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James Wesley, Rawles: Compassionate survivalist

John Wesley, Rawles is a well-known survivalist. A former Army intelligence officer, his website is a go-to source for all manner of preparation for survival in a post-breakdown world. While he is firmly in the “guns and groceries” camp, his perspective is notable for its emphasis, based on notions of Christian charity, that one’s personal preparation must also include a readiness to be of service to others who may be less prepared for major change.

Interview, late 2014: This interview offers a good introduction to Rawles’ perspective (as well as an explanation for the unusual punctuation of his name).

Wiki bio of Rawles

Rawles’ website, which bills itself as “the daily website for prepared individuals living in uncertain times.” It contains a wealth of practical and philosophical information on preparing for societal breakdown, as well as any other natural or manmade emergency. Readers often submit their own prepping and survival techniques, often gained through practical experience, sometime through learning the hard way.

Book: How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It.
A collection of topical resources on everything from food and water to medical supplies and communication.

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Jared Diamond: Collapse (it can happen here)

Jared Diamond is a geographer and cultural historian. While his books range widely, and he is by no means a Doomer himself, his book “Collapse” offers some of the most solid evidence for the fundamental point that even complex societies like ours can and have crumbled in the past. The point of the book is more complex than this; in particular he looks at how we could “choose to succeed.” Still, as a reality check, this book is valuable to us all.

The book: Diamond’s website synopsis of “Collapse”
Quotes from the book on Good Reads
The rest of Diamond’s books
Video: “Why Societies Collapse”


Community-oriented responses to breakdown

The following initiatives gather a wealth of practical, organizational, and inspirational materials that foster local economies, local culture, and local resilience. Within the resilient investing framework, the work of these groups are—in many ways—both “close to home” and “evolutionary”; we see strong local communities as a key element in a resilient response to any and all future scenarios.

Transition Towns
Transition is a global network of local/regional groups working to build resiliency. While Transition began from the framework of preparing for a post-peak-oil world, the evolution of the movement has led to a wide range of local initiatives that foster local economies, social justice, increased renewable energy, and other projects that, like much in the Close to Home strategy, offer powerful contributions to any possible future scenario.

Transition United States compiles news and resources; also includes a map of the over 150 active Transition Town initiatives in the US.

Transition Network is the global Transition resource center.

Resilient Communities
A project from the UK that shares some roots with the Transition Network. In the words of founder John Robb, a resilient community produces the food, energy, water, things, and incomes it needs locally. Visit website.

Peak Prosperity / Crash Course
Chris Martenson’s Peak Prosperity website is dedicated to helping readers to understand and prepare for the many huge changes that are underway in the areas that Martenson calls “the 3 E’s” – economy, energy and environment. It’s a member-supported site (charging a monthly membership fee) that also contains a deep and wide offering of resources available to all. While somewhat more oriented toward breakdowns that we may be, the resources he offers are a close complement to the fundamental thinking behind our resilient investing planning. Includes practical resources, blogs, and group discussions.

The Crash Course is a series of free video courses that provide context for the many complex challenges in today’s world that promise to bring great change in years ahead. A book and DVD are also available.

Dark Mountain Project
Dark Mountain is a loose network of writers, artists, philosophers, and others who generally see some degree of environmental and/or economic collapse to be likely in the coming decades, and efforts to reform the system as essentially spitting into the wind. In response, many in the Dark Mountain community consider it more constructive to devote their energy to fostering local and regional cultures, with an emphasis on practical skills, arts, events, and stories for a new time, and developing an historical understanding of the kinds of stories and thinking that led us astray.

Dark Mountain website. Includes in-depth essays from many contributors, and links to Dark Mountain’s series of book-sized journals, each one rich with historical reflection, interviews, fiction, poetry, and visual arts.

Article: NY Times Magazine feature on Paul Kingsnorth and xxxx, two key figures in the Dark Mountain Project.

Article: Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist. A good introduction to the thinking behind Dark Mountain; the first of three annual essays published by Orion by co-founder Paul Kingsnorth.

Audio trialogue between Kingsnorth, David Abram, and Lierre Keith, responding to the themes of Kingsnorth’s essay.

Interview with Paul Kingsnorth, from Orion.


SEE ALSO our page on What is Resilience?

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Website: Peak Prosperity / Crash Course

Chris Martenson runs a website called “Peak Prosperity” which is dedicated to helping readers to understand and prepare for the many huge changes that are underway in the areas that Martenson calls “the 3 E’s” – economy, energy and environment. It’s a member-supported site (charging a monthly membership fee) that also contains a deep and wide offering of resources available to all, including forums and resources for practical preparedness actions. While more oriented toward breakdown that we tend to be, his Crash Course is a useful complement to the fundamental thinking behind our resilient investing planning. Visit website.

The Crash Course is a series of free video courses that provide context for the many complex challenges in today’s world that promise to bring great change in years ahead. A book and DVD are also available. Learn more.

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