Interestingly enough, the same problem I had in thinking of what to say next is pretty much what I needed to write about.

At this point, there is enough serious shit going down that you would never be able to keep track of it all. I remember just a few years ago, you’d be lucky to get maybe four or five relevant pieces of news a day. Now it’s like twenty original pieces, revolving around maybe three or four novel events, every single day.

Trying to assimilate that on a case by case basis is clearly no longer a tenable situation. If you take these matters seriously, it’s not responsible to get your daily doom fix and paralyse yourself by trying to get the ‘whole picture’.

The whole picture is pretty fucked, y’all. Time to deal with it.

That means you have to approach this as a legitimate exercise in crisis management, and the first step, once you’ve done an assessment, is to perform triage.

Triage, in battlefield terms is separating out those who can be helped, from those who can’t, and putting your resources where it will do the most good. Once things get to a certain pitch, trying to save everyone and everything is only going to put people in worse danger, and put you at risk of losing a lot more than you need to.

At this point, defending every inch of your lifestyle isn’t going to happen. It just isn’t. in the same way, for us to try and save every bit of our society, as it is, on a case by case basis, is only going to make things worse. This is what is being done with the economy right now. Instead of letting things unwind, which they will eventually have to do no matter what, it’s being fought to the death by inches, and this is only going to guarantee us a soviet style collapse, and widespread poverty and misery. The only way to go from a reactive to a responsive mode of behavior is to withdraw to a predetermined point and start to progress from there. Which means that certain things need to be let go of, and let go of right now.

My suggestion, at this point, is to give yourself at least a year of lead time. That means anything that might or probably will happen in the next year should be regarded at this point as a done deal. Make the changes now, while you have the time, and prepare to hold that situation to the best of your ability.

For example, in the next year, you should take seriously the idea that you will not be able to afford to drive, except in emergences, and just stop using the car right now. Save the money and use the bus, or carpool. Buy the gas anyway if you want, and stockpile it. Store the car, or sell it. Buy a bike, whatever. Get ahead of that curve, because you don’t want to wake up some morning and suddenly find you can’t afford to commute to your job anymore, or the government is just flat out rationing the fuel, and you can’t get it. The car culture cannot be saved. Let it die.

Similarly, you should take seriously the notion that airline transport and long distance trucking will be dramatically reduced from what it is now. That means, grocery stores become fewer and smaller, international business shrinks, consumer goods start to dry up. Start learning how to grow some food. Not all, but some. Live closer to your necessities. Learn to live without all the cheap crap. If you really need to travel a lot, you should get used to the idea that that isn’t going to continue. The globalised consumer culture is not going to survive. Let it die.

And in line with what I said above you should probably adjust your financial assets with an eye to the possibility that the banking and finance system as it exists is not going to survive either. Clearing your debts and investing in tangibles is not a bad idea at all.

This is not some mad max shit, and it’s not mass death. But it’s what you gotta accept if you want to avoid the worse alternatives. Or at least, if you want to be in a position to offset the worse alternatives.

For certain regions, the prognosis is obviously much worse. If you live in crumbling infrastructure, under huge debts, at the end of a long commute, and there’s no soil in sight, you might want to seriously consider walking away from that situation. There are places in the united states that face a mass catastrophe in the winter the first time there’s a natural gas shortage that coincides with sub zero weather. That could happen anytime. Great Britain stands to fall into semi permanent blackouts in the next few years due to decay in their energy infrastructure, and depletion of north sea oil.

In short I recommend you inform yourself on the likely unfoldings in your locale and get ahead of the breaking wave. From there, we can start to build.

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19 thoughts on “Planetary Triage

  1. I remember, a while back, that in your last “magical record” entry you mentioned a desire to make a contribution to the field of 9/11 Research. Do you still entertain any plans of engaging in such a pursuit?

  2. “It is as if a man had been wounded by a poisoned arrow and when attended to by a physician were to say, ‘I will not allow you to remove this arrow until I have learned the caste, the age, the occupation, the birthplace, and the motivation of the person who wounded me.’ That man would die before having learned all this.”
    -Buddha

    Shouldn’t we focus on removing the arrow…?

  3. we should have focussed on removing the arrow thirty years ago. it’s a bit late for that. it was a bit late before most of us were born.

    I feel no particular obligation to save systems that failed long before I was old enough to contribute to them, and ideas that have been bankrupt since before even then.

    this is part of my ( eventual ) point: the only reason we’re attached to most of this stuff is because we can’t or won’t imagine lives that would be better without them.

    it’s possible I’m misreading your intent behind this quote. in one sense we are in perfect agreement. there’s no time to fuss over every little detail. it’s time for decisive action.

  4. I think Ross was talking to Wulf.

    In January I’m embarking on a one year world trip. It’s either going to be very good timing or very bad, depending on the rate of collapse.

  5. At times I think our failure of imagination is our biggest failure. We can’t imagine a world where our current regimes, be they energy or democratic, fail us and we can’t imagine a world without them and we can’t imagine anything different. But when I look to those who do posit genuine alternatives, so much of it is just rampant scifi-geekism. “Sometimes I feel like I live in a William Gibson novel!” Okay, well, if live in post-AIDS Africa you are living in the deleted scenes to Children of Men. And many of the “alternatives” are just reactions, plain and simple. One of the only thinkers I can conjure up who offers an “alternative” is Terrence McKenna, and he was stoned and giving us trip reports half the time.

  6. even gibson doesn’t write about the future anymore. I get frustrated as hell when the main ‘alternatives’ are for us to return to agricultural peonage, or to have a planetary rave party presumably run as a welfare state.

    a lot of it is return to the womb, longing for stasis… it’s a big jump to imagine that there is a future, a progression and you have to play a role in creating it. most people these days have no purpose whatsoever. not in the functional or aesthetic sense. just servicing an entropic sinkhole of resources that we’ll never get back. who really wants to face that you have no fucking purpose, and not only that, but what you are doing is killing everyone and everything that walks swims or flies on this earth?

  7. Minor point compared to the whole big picture / remove the arrow vibe, and I’m only really arguing that we are even more fucked, but…

    The Media regulator in the UK Ofcom just ruled on that Great Global Warming Swindle documentary you linked to a while ago, basically saying that it fabricated a lot of evidence, misled its contributors etc. As several people had already pointed out, fnar preen etc. Quite entertaining rant from George Monbiot on the subject in the Guardian. Not that it proves anything, but hey, a bit more data won’t kill you.

    Favourite bit: TV producer asked about anti-environmental stance of channel says ‘I don’t know what’s important any more.’

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jul/21/climatechange.carbonemissions1

    Meanwhile, there’s very little else I can do along the lines of your triage suggestion. No car – check. No debt – check. Growing food, training in martial arts and traditional healing, getting in as much travelling as I can while its still cheap; check check check. Sure, i could be even more healthy, harrassing more people about peak oil, following a more insane program of meditation adn self-development, learning to tan hides and weave baskets out of bark etc. but really – once you’ve done the big things, and decided that you’re not ready to flee to the hills just yet, is there anything much to do other than sit around and watch the runaway locomotive getting bigger and bigger?

    Sorry, just read that and realised the answer is ‘yes!’ All the things in my ‘I could be doing more’ list. Forget everything i said. I’m off to do some of them.

  8. well the global warming thing is a moot point anyway, regardless. any radical action plan to reduce our carbon emissions will never come anywhere close to a 3% per year depletion rate. and you can’t run cars on coal, so I think we’ll be alright, even if AGW isn’t a crock of shit.

    yeah, and I’m sure you’re in the top percentage of triaged people. me too more or less. the only thing I’d say is don’t get too attached to the idea of fleeing into the bush. a couple million people fanning out into the countryside to hunt and forage is a sure guarantee of getting shot by accident. the return of paleolithism is just another dead end.

  9. well damn, I can’t believe you’re still at this. At this point, I can’t stand any talk of Gibson, Mckenna, or RAW, or Guenon or singularity, or optimism or agrarianism, or 100mpg cars, Utopian schemes or pretty much any of iT. It is all shit.

    Wendell Berry has them beat. I’d add to your list buy a gun, have a child and get to know your neighbors. And start taking part in your town’s civic life–and not necessarily as an activist. Learn a skill or a trade that serves people. GET OUT OF DEBT. Stay clear of the deranged, conspiratorial, gnostic mindset. Perhaps read Voegelin’s Order & History, and From Enlightenment to Revolution, among other works, both of which can be found in google book search.

    Get married & have a child if you’re anywhere called to that. I don’t own a gun. That was a joke. Berry’s Mad Farmer’s Liberation Front is a good poem, as is his commencement address, both of which deserves your attention and can be easily googled.

    Basically, don’t be afraid of life, and don’t be afraid of death. Free your mind from thinking determined by technology, and not encumbered by any thought of what is good or worthy or neighborly or humane, to rip off Berry’s Commencement address worth viewing. Practice resurrection.

    bah! good post.

    And you will have a window in your head.

  10. I don’t like Berry’s agrarianism. He really strikes me as another “abandon the city” type, which is a sentiment that strikes me as thinly-veiled racism, the exact same sentiment that built the suburbs and that never cleaned up the rubble left by the late sixties riots in the US.

    You posit Voegelin as some anti-gnostic hero. That’s great. Voegelin really knew what he was talking about. Maybe we can roll back social spending even more. After all, only god-hating revolutionaries would want to do something as arrogant as fix the inner cities or make it easier for poor children to get educations or adequate nutrition. Because that’s clearly a “gnostic” and “conspiratorial” impulse. And only a “deranged” “gnostic” wants the United States’ overseas intervention team to stop participating in reckless anti-leftist (i.e., anti-gnostic) movements to destroy governments that don’t lean right, and to stop importing massive amounts of cocaine to fund those projects, and to stop employing a Strategy of Tension at home. That’s clearly deranged gnostic conspiratorial thinking there.

    It amazes me, how when the Right wants to cultivate “the good” in life, the mention the need for people to participate in a “good life” but then immediately suggest that the “good” entails not trying to fix a goddamn thing, and most importantly avoiding any genuine spiritual practice and ideally replacing it with reproduction and church-going, because our big space daddy will take care of everything.

  11. Yeah, by ‘flee to the hills’ i mean ‘significantly alter your location base’. Frankly, moving to Vancouver would be a major step up from London in sustainability / survivability terms. And the nearest hills to me are the Chilterns, which are filled with stockbrokers rather than salmon and wild strawberries.

    May I add to the list ‘get a dental check-up’? I meant to do this when Ran was posting about his own tooth decay / collapse / apocalypse last year, and finally got round to it today: Big hole. Not cheap.

    Possibly also ‘go back to using fluoride toothpaste you dumb hippy’, which is pretty much what the dentist was probably thinking. But I’m undecided on that one. Teeth vs. neurons, hm, let me see…

  12. Yeah, I was having a nervous breakdown for a awhile because i hadn’t been to the dentist in fifteen years. but…perfect teeth! amazing really. just some stains that they couldn’t even remove anyway. of course they gave me a list of ‘optional’ work, that added up to about a grand.

    yeah, I’m thinking more and more that there’s no point going anywhere. unless you’re far enough ahead of the curve to stock up on wild edibles and game before the first big wave of migrations out into the sticks turns the whole fucking thing into a war zone. you’re better off staying in the city and learning how to roof garden on limited soil. at least it’ll be quiet. and you get to keep all the technical infrastructure. even if you happen to live in some hellhole like vegas, you could have a pretty good lifestyle after it empties out, if you’re savvy in the right areas of expertise. it beats becoming the world smartest traction animal, or getting shot whilst looking for the last squirrel in the forest to catch and eat.

    I wish I was joking.

  13. There’s an epidemic of seagulls in Brighton UK this year, nesting all over the city on everyone’s roofs… But I expect the bastards taste foul…

    I seem to be up to speed – apart from the ‘learning how to grow stuff’. Oh well, it’s time to get my hands dirty…

    Zac, I remember you mentioned you’d reduced your calorie intake. Is it a good tactic? Are you still gymming and doing martial arts on top of this?

  14. I go back and forth. It’s hard to cut your intake when you’re in the gym most days and fighting the rest of the time. if I had to, I know I could cut my calories to an absurdly low level for weeks at a time, so I’m not too bothered.

    I’d say, learn how to get by on less, but alternate that with putting on some extra weight, as a buffer. if you’re a stick man to begin with, a few missed meals will put you over the edge. I’d say most people need to drink more water, and I’d strongly consider detoxing from the processed stuff and chemicals now, before the grocery stores start to dry up. millions of people in detox crisis from white flour, white sugar, caffeine and alcohol, along with the delightful effects of various preservatives additives and contaminants, will make for a real turbulent social atmosphere.

  15. I’ve never known any “detox crisis” to have kicked in, even after not eating for days. Just lethargy, nasty GI stuff and an increased need for water. Hell, the last time I fasted I didn’t even get caffeine withdrawal and that was after getting about 600 mg + of caffeine a day from coffee and crack-based energy drinks… I really think a lot of those vegan detoxers are trying to undo a life of a nearly 100% grain-based diet… at this point I’d venture to say that fiber and green vegetables are the best detox “supplement” around, no colonics necessary

  16. I’ll add that I’ve been waiting to get one of those “healing crisis” things in hopes of purging, um, an interesting chemical history

  17. yeah, it depends where you start from. if you’re fairly slim and get lots of exercise, there’s not really anywhere for the toxic stuff to stay except in your liver, and it takes about a week to clean your blood sufficiently to start cleaning the liver, unless you take some milk thistle or bentonite clay.

    a ‘detox crisis’ can be limited to just what you described, however for an unprepared person, who thinks they need three meals a day to not starve to death, it would probably feel like they were going to die.

  18. “The car culture cannot be saved. Let it die.”, what about electric cars? Then I’m not suggesting we switch all the cars in the world out for it in time but what about on the individual level? Then I’m not suggesting it will work everywhere in the world but what about Iceland? Most if not all electricity here is generated without oil, couldn’t that work?

  19. if the electric cars actually existed maybe, but they don’t. at this point if you’re going to go electric, it makes more sense to just do a comprehensive electric rail system, and forget about the cars altogether. universal car ownership is an artifact of suburban living, which is of no lasting usefullness either. cars help conceal the fact that most people live in places they can’t bear to just stay in, most of the time.

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