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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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Navigating Through the Storms

NAVIGATING THROUGH THE STORMS

Several weeks ago I had to drive west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to pick up my son after his sophomore year at Penn State. I’ve made this trip a dozen times over the last few years, since this is my second son attending Penn State, with a third starting in the Fall. It’s a tedious, boring, protracted, four hour trek through the rural countryside of the Keystone State. During these trips my mind wanders, making connections between the landscape and the pressing issues facing the world. I can’t help but get lost in my thoughts as the miles accumulate like dollars on the national debt clock.

More often than not I end up making the trip in the midst of bad weather. And this time was no different. The Pennsylvania Turnpike is a meandering, decades old, dangerous, mostly two lane highway for most of its 360 mile span. Large swaths of the decaying interstate are under construction, as the narrative about lack of infrastructure spending is proven false by visual proof along the highways and byways of America.

The real infrastructure crisis is below ground in urban shitholes where 100 year old water and sewer pipes fail on a regular basis, but bankrupt Democrat politicians divert their steadily declining tax revenues to bloated pensions of government lackeys. Infrastructure spending is only interesting to politicians if they can name it after themselves and have a ribbon cutting ceremony. Replacing water and sewer pipes before they explode isn’t sexy, so it won’t be done.

A winding two lane highway, with a speed limits of 70 mph, and jam-packed with 18 wheelers driven by sometimes sleepy and often aggressive truckers already leads to a pressure packed few hours. Add rain to the mixture and you ratchet up the blood pressure.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

It’s Time For Local Communities to Take Charge and Experiment – Decentralize or Die (Part 2)

It’s Time For Local Communities to Take Charge and Experiment – Decentralize or Die (Part 2)

And when we mark the progress already accomplished in that direction, in spite of and against the State, which tries by all means to maintain its supremacy of recent origin; when we see how voluntary societies invade everything and are only impeded in their development by the State, we are forced to recognize a powerful tendency, a latent force in modern society.

– Peter Kropotkin

Before I get started, I want to emphasize that while the ideas in this three-part series focus on the U.S. and its particular structure of governance, the basic concepts can and should be applied throughout the world. If I believe in anything at all, it’s the idea that concentrations of power, whether government or corporate, represent the greatest threat to human freedom and liberty and this must be understood and resisted by all of us. Ok, so let’s get started.

Although many crucial functions are centralized, the U.S. still provides its citizens with various ways to exercise local power and we’ve already started to see a resurgence of such efforts across the nation. Whether or not we agree with the various state proposals out there trying to shake things up, we should all encourage the efforts. We all win from local populations experimenting with different ideas. Some will fail spectacularly, while others will pave the way for more reasonable policies across the nation.

Perhaps the greatest success of localized action in my lifetime was initiated by my adopted home state of Colorado, as its residents led the way with cannabis legalization in 2012, following the passage of Amendment 64. If we had continued to wait for the feds to do something we would have ended up waiting forever.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

From Growth to Degrowth: a Brief History

When it became evident that geophysical limits could bring growth to a halt, the concepts of durable or sustainable development were proposed. The 1987 Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, advocated for “clean” growth that guarantees ecological sustainability, development and social justice all at the same time. This proposal became the backbone of the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. However, the explosion of inequalities and the fact that we have gone beyond the ecological limits of the planet have rendered hopes for sustainable development obsolete.

With economic and financial globalization, the integration of the world markets is said to be what will achieve development, which often involves countries assuming massive debts and making huge payments to service them. These, in turn, drive forced growth to guarantee repayment. It is thus no longer about balancing the three pillars of sustainable development – growth, social justice and the sustainability of the planet – but rather entrusting the task of caring for society and the Earth to the economy and the market.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What Problems Are We Solving by Increasing Complexity?

What Problems Are We Solving by Increasing Complexity?

The incremental increase in systemic complexity is rarely if ever recognized as a problem that additional complexity can’t solve.
The Collapse of Complex Societies fame has observed that societies increase complexity to solve pressing problems that cannot be resolved with existing solutions.
What is complexity in this context? More organization, more layers of management, higher levels of specialization, an expansion of roles and differentiated areas of expertise, more channels of communication, more feedback loops, and an increase in the quantity and types of communication.
All of which consumes more energy and more treasure, not just to build the infrastructure of this increased complexity but to train the staff and maintain the higher costs going forward.
Which raises the obvious question: how does increasing cost solve anything? Doesn’t increasing the cost of a system create the problems resulting from taking money from some other source to pay the higher costs?
There are several different answers to this question.
1. The problem that must be solved is an existential threat to the society, and therefore cost is no longer an issue. World War II offers a historical example of an existential threat requiring a vast expansion of complexity and cost.
The upside of this dynamic is the problem is resolved relatively decisively by either victory or defeat. The downside is the vast sums borrowed to fund the war effort must be paid, or at least the interest must be paid–or the enormous debts must be renounced, crippling trust and the credit system.
2. The gains reaped by increasing complexity more than offset the higher costs. Amazon seems to offer a commercial example of this dynamic. By investing heavily in complex technology, Amazon has created financial incentives for consumers to shop online and have their purchases delivered to their door.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Was Petya Ransomware a DELIBERATE Cyberattack on Ukraine? Here’s How It Could Happen To Us

Was Petya Ransomware a DELIBERATE Cyberattack on Ukraine? Here’s How It Could Happen To Us

The Petya Ransomware attack hit globally, but one country, in particular, was devastated by it. The Ukrainian infrastructure was brought own by the attack, where the epicenter occurred, and now, experts are suggesting that it may have been deliberate and state-sponsored.

The ostensible purpose of all that damage was to make money — and yet there’s very little money to be found. Most ransomware flies under the radar, quietly collecting payouts from companies eager to get their data back and decrypting systems as payments come in. But Petya seems to have been incapable of decrypting infected machines, and its payout method was bizarrely complex, hinging on a single email address that was shut down almost as soon as the malware made headlines. As of this morning, the Bitcoin wallet associated with the attack had received just $10,000, a relatively meager payout by ransomware standards.

The Power Grid Is Far More Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks Than Most People Realize

The Power Grid Is Far More Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks Than Most People Realize

In December of 2015, 230,000 people in Western Ukraine lost power after 30 substations were mysteriously shut off. Contrary to what most people assumed at the time, this wasn’t an innocuous power outage. The authorities would later admit that the loss of power was caused by a cyber attack, which marked the first time that malware was successfully used to attack a power grid. A similar, albeit more sophisticated cyber attack, occurred one year later just outside of Kiev. Given the current tensions between Russia and Ukraine, it’s widely believed that the Russian government was responsible for these incidents.

However, there’s more to this story than meets the eye. A computer security company has been investigating these attacks, and has discovered the malware that was used to take down the grid. They’ve found that it’s far more dangerous and easier to use than anyone realized before.

The danger of the malware is that it can automatically trip the breakers within a power system that keep the electrical lines from being overloaded. If one breaker is tripped, the load is shipped to another portion of the power grid. If enough are tripped, in the right places, it’s possible to create a cascading effect that will eventually overload the entire system, said Weatherford, who was formerly the chief security officer at the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the regulatory authority for North American utilities.

“In some cases, it could then take days to restart all the plants,” he said.

Two things stand out about the malware, dubbed “Industroyer” by the researchers — it’s an order of magnitude easier to use than previous programs and it wasn’t actually deployed to do any real damage, meaning whoever’s behind the December attack might simply have been testing the waters. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Scientists Fear “Supervolcano” Eruption As Earthquake Swarm Near Yellowstone Soars To 800

Scientists Fear “Supervolcano” Eruption As Earthquake Swarm Near Yellowstone Soars To 800

More than 800 earthquakes have now been recorded at the Yellowstone Caldera, a long-dormant supervolcano located in Yellowstone National Park, over the last two weeks – an ominous sign that a potentially catastrophic eruption could be brewing. However, despite earthquakes occurring at a frequency unseen during any period in the past five years, the US Geological Survey says the risk level remains in the “green,” unchanged from its normal levels, according to Newsweek.

The biggest earthquake in this “swarm” – which registered a magnitude of 4.4 – took place on June 15, three days after the rumblings started. That quake was the biggest in the region since a magnitude 4.8 earthquake struck close to Norris Geyser Basin in March 2014. This magnitude 4.4 earthquake was so powerful that people felt it in Bozman Montana, about eight miles away.

A scientist from the University of Utah said the quakes have also included five in the magnitude three range, and 68 in the magnitude two range.

“The swarm consists of one earthquake in the magnitude 4 range, five earthquakes in the magnitude 3 range, 68 earthquakes in the magnitude 2 range, 277 earthquakes in the magnitude 1 range, 508 earthquakes in the magnitude 0 range, and 19 earthquakes with magnitudes of less than zero,” the latest report said.

An earthquake with a magnitude less than zero is a very small event that can only be detected with the extremely sensitive instruments used in earthquake monitoring.”

There is normally a rise in seismic activity before a volcano erupts. And scientists currently believe there’s a 10% chance that a “supervolcanic Category 7 eruption” could take place this century, as pointed out by theoretical physicist Michio Kaku.

An eruption, Kaku said, is long overdue: The last one occurred 640,000 years ago..

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Joseph Tainter: The Collapse Of Complex Societies

Joseph Tainter: The Collapse Of Complex Societies

What history predicts about our future prospects
By popular demand, we welcome Joseph Tainter, USU professor and author of The Collapse Of Complex Societies (free book download here).

Dr. Tainter sees many of the same unsustainable risks the PeakProsperity.com audience focuses on — an overleveraged economy, declining net energy per capita, and depleting key resources.

He argues that the sustainability or collapse of a society follows from the success or failure of its problem-solving institutions. His work shows that societies collapse when their investments in social complexity and their energy subsidies reach a point of diminishing marginal returns. From Tainter’s perspective, we are likely already past the tipping point towards collapse but just don’t know it yet:

Sustainability requires that people have the ability and the inclination to think broadly in terms of time and space. In other words, to think broadly in a geographical sense about the world around them, as well as the state of the world as a whole. And also, to think broadly in time in terms of the near and distant future and what resources will be available to our children and our grandchildren and our great grandchildren.

One of the major problems in sustainability and in this whole question of resources and collapse is that we did not evolve as a species to have this ability to think broadly in time and space. Instead, our ancestors who lived as hunter-gatherers never confronted any challenges that required them to think beyond their locality and the near term(…)

We have developed the most complex society humanity has ever known. And we have maintained it up to this point. I have argued that technological innovation and other kinds of innovation evolve like any other aspect of complexity. The investments in research and development grow increasingly complex and reach diminishing returns.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Twilight of Anthropolatry

The Twilight of Anthropolatry

During the last three months, while on hiatus from blogging, I’ve looked back over the eleven-year run of The Archdruid Report. As my regular readers know, the point of that prolonged experiment in online prose was my attempt to explore the primary historical fact of our time—the accelerating decline and impending fall of industrial civilization—from every angle I could think of, including some I never imagined addressing at all when I started blogging back in 2006.

Those changes of angle happened partly because it gets boring to talk about the same thing in the same way over and over again, of course, but there was a deeper factor as well. I started off discussing what I thought was the straightforward point that you can’t fuel infinite economic growth by drawing down a finite resource base. Sounds like basic common sense, doesn’t it? It did to me, too, but it nonetheless fielded a remarkable amount of pushback. A great many people seemed to be unable to get their minds around the fact that each ton of coal, barrel of petroleum, or cubic foot of natural gas burned to fuel their lifestyles really does go away forever.

So I began discussing that issue from different angles of approach, and over time the blog gathered an online community of people who found one or more of those angles interesting. We talked about systems ecology, economics, history and the cycles by which civilizations rise and fall; we hauled the appropriate-technology movement of the Seventies out of the memory hole to which it’s been consigned for the last thirty years, and unpacked some of the things it had to offer, now that we’re experiencing the future that the movement’s spokespeople warned about.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

FEMA Is Preparing For A Solar Storm That Would Take Out The Grid

FEMA Is Preparing For A Solar Storm That Would Take Out The Grid

power-grid1

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) is planning for a massive solar storm that would be so strong, it would take down the power grid. Noting that the rare, yet “high-consequence” scenario has “the potential for catastrophic impact on our nation and FEMA’s ability to respond.”

According to unpublished FEMA documents obtained by Government Attic, a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) database and non-profit organization, the Department of Homeland Security agency once mapped out a disaster plan for the occurrence of another geomagnetic “super storm” like the one the occurred in 1859.

Back then, the sun flung a giant plume of magnetized plasma out into space. The coronal mass ejection (CME), the sibling of a massive solar flare, traveled the 93 million miles between the Sun and Earth in only 17.6 hours. Today, it’s known as the Carrington Event and is remembered by the largest geomagnetic storm in the history of recorded space weather.

No other storm has matched it in speed or magnitude. When the shock wave of accelerated particles arrived on September 1, 1859, the disturbances to Earth’s magnetosphere were so great that telegraph communications across Europe and North America went on the fritz. Sparks leaped from the telegraph infrastructure, and machinery was so inundated with electric currents that operators were able to transmit messages while disconnected from battery power. Compasses even wiggled, and brilliant auroras were reportedly seen as far south as the Caribbean.

But that doesn’t mean the ill-equipped government isn’t preparing for the inevitability, in fact, they are. Despite our superior ability to predict these events, the stakes are exponentially higher in a modern, hyper-connected world.  FEMA predicts that a geomagnetic storm of this intensity would be “a catastrophe in slow motion.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Coming Apart: The Imperial City At The Brink


Thomas Cole Destruction of Empire 1836
The Conflicts Forum, directed by former British diplomat and MI6 ‘ranking figure’ Alastair Crooke, sent me another unpublished article by Alastair and asked if the Automatic Earth would publish it. But of course. Previous articles by Alastair published here are: ‘End of Growth’ Sparks Wide Discontent in October 2016, Obstacles to Trump’s ‘Growth’ Plans in November 2016 and What is this ‘Crisis’ of Modernity? in January 2017.

Here’s Alastair again:

Alastair Crooke: David Stockman routinely refers to President Trump as the ‘Great Disrupter’. But this is not a bad quality, he insists. Rather, it is a necessary one: Stockman argues (my paraphrasing) that Trump represents the outside force, the externality, that tips a ‘world system’ over the brink: It has to tip over the brink, because systems become too ossified, too far out on their ‘branch’ to be able to reform themselves. It does not really matter so much, whether the agency of this tipping process (President Trump in this instance), fully comprehends his pivotal role, or plays it out in an intelligent and subtle way, or in a heavy-handed, and unsubtle manner. Either serve the purpose. And that purpose is to disrupt.

Why should disruption be somehow a ‘quality’? It is because, during a period when ‘a system’ is coming apart, (history tells us), one can reach a point at which there is no possibility of revival within the old, but still prevailing, system. An externality of some sort – maybe war, or some other calamity or a Trump – is necessary to tip the congealed system ‘over’: thus, the external intrusion can be the catalyst for (often traumatic) transformational change.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Massive Government Preparations and Stockpiling Point To One Thing: “An Event Is Going To Happen”

Massive Government Preparations and Stockpiling Point To One Thing: “An Event Is Going To Happen”

gov-collapse1

The question is subtly Malthusian in nature: how to deal with the world’s teeming billions in one fell swoop while maintaining the existing social and political orders in all of the countries?  That order needs only to have one facade now: as Draconian an order that can be accomplished without throwing the world into a revolution against every government in existence.  The Draconian nature is as follows: CCTV cameras monitoring and cross-referencing every purchase, every bank withdrawal or deposit, every movement, and every social engagement.  The Draconian nature is one of continuous monitoring, with a rise in prices and a steadily-declining world economy, as natural resources are quietly siphoned off by the politicos and the oligarchs to stockpile for their use when the plug is pulled.

As much Draconian repression and control under a “soft” police state with continuous monitoring…while those in power lay the groundwork to collapse the system and kill off most of the world’s population…while they remain safe, and in power.

The question of the existing social and political order being maintained is being addressed in all of the countries of the world.  In the 1990’s the oligarchs rose to power after the Soviet Union’s collapse: since Putin came to power, the oligarchs who delved in politics against the wishes of the Politburo were crushed.  Those who knuckled under were given a slice of the pie with impunity and the “sign off” of the politicos, and are “big” today, even with partial or complete nationalization of their private industries.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Letters from Venezuela: This Is What Life Is Really Like in a Post-Collapse Society

Letters from Venezuela: This Is What Life Is Really Like in a Post-Collapse Society

If you ever wondered what life was really like in a post-collapse society, look no further than Venezuela. Today, I’d like to share a first-hand report of everyday life there.

The country has been on the way down since a socialist government destroyed the economy. Here’s a quick timeline:

  • Private ownership of guns was banned in 2012. Then things began to go downhill in a hurry.
  • In 2013, preppers were relabeled “hoarders” and the act of stocking up became illegal.
  • In 2014, the government instituted a fingerprint registry for those who wished to buy food to ensure they didn’t take more than their “share.”
  • In 2015, things began to devolve more quickly as electricity began to be rationed and farmers were forced to turn over their harvests to the government.
  • 2016 brought the announcement that folks were on their own – there was simply not enough food. As well, despite the rationing, an electricity shortage was announced.
  • 2016 also brought the news that the country was out of everything: food, medicine, and nearly all basic necessities. People were dying of starvation and malnourishment made other illnesses even worse. Hyperinflation brought exorbitant prices, like $150 for a dozen eggs.
  • Now,  civil war is near (if not already happening.) They’re calling it “protests” but violence between the people and the government is ongoing. This rage is stoked by wealthy Venezuelans who enjoy luxurious meals, fabulous parties, and lush accommodations while the rest of the country struggles to find a bag of rice they can afford. Let them eat cake?

It appears there is no end in sight to the tribulations of the Venezuelans.

So, what is day-to-day life like for the average Venezuelan?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Automatic Earth Primer Guide 2017

 


Pablo Picasso Bull plates I-XI 1945
Nicole Foss has completed a huge tour de force with her update of the Automatic Earth Primer Guide. The first update since 2013 is now more like a Primer Library, with close to 160 articles and videos published over the past -almost- 10 years, and Nicole’s words to guide you through it. Here’s Nicole:

The Automatic Earth (TAE) has existed for almost ten years now. That is nearly ten years of exploring and describing the biggest possible big picture of our present predicament. The intention of this post is to gather all of our most fundamental articles in one place, so that readers can access our worldview in its most comprehensive form. For new readers, this is the place to start. The articles are roughly organised into topics, although there is often considerable overlap.

We are reaching limits to growth in so many ways at the same time, but it is not enough to understand which are the limiting factors, but also what time frame each particular subset of reality operates over, and therefore which is the key driver at what time. We can think of the next century as a race of hurdles we need to clear. We need to know how to prepare for each as it approaches, as we need to clear each one in order to be able to stay in the race.

TAE is known primarily as a finance site because finance has the shortest time frame of all. So much of finance exists in a virtual world in which changes can unfold very quickly. There are those who assume that changes in a virtual system can happen without major impact, but this assumption is dangerously misguided.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Global Collapse: Children Are Literally Starving To Death In Venezuela And Yemen

Global Collapse: Children Are Literally Starving To Death In Venezuela And Yemen

Venezuela and Yemen were both once very prosperous nations, but now parents are literally watching their children starve to death as the economies of both nations continue to utterly collapse.  Just like so many here in the United States, most of those living in Venezuela and Yemen would have called you completely crazy if you would have warned them that this was going to happen five years ago.  In particular, Venezuela has more proven oil reserves than almost anyone else on the planet, and so to most of their citizens it was unimaginable that things could ever get this bad.  But it has happened, and the collapse that has already begun in parts of South America, Africa and the Middle East will soon spread elsewhere.

When I said that children are literally starving to death in Venezuela, I was not exaggerating one bit.  The following comes from the Wall Street Journal

Jean Pierre Planchart, a year old, has the drawn face of an old man and a cry that is little more than a whimper. His ribs show through his skin. He weighs just 11 pounds.

His mother, Maria Planchart, tried to feed him what she could find combing through the trash—scraps of chicken or potato. She finally took him to a hospital in Caracas, where she prays a rice-milk concoction keeps her son alive.

“I watched him sleep and sleep, getting weaker, all the time losing weight,” said Ms. Planchart, 34 years old. “I never thought I’d see Venezuela like this.”

What would you do if that was your child?

At one time Venezuela had the brightest outlook out of all the economies in South America, but now their economy has contracted by a total of 27 percent since 2013, imports of food have fallen 70 percent, and the IMF says that the inflation rate will hit a staggering 720 percent this year.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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