inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #101 of 195: Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Tue 13 Sep 11 22:23
    
I too would like to hear the answer to divinea's question, as I think
it goes right to the heart of the implications on entering the next
global depression. I suspect there's no easy answer. 
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #102 of 195: John Robb (johnmrobb) Wed 14 Sep 11 15:16
    
Ok. Community.

The transition towns approach to grass roots organizing is pretty
solid.  Here's their formula:

http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2008/04/transition-town.h
tml

Develop a steering group to get it started (a foco). Five people is
recommended. Plan to disband this group when things get started.

Raise awareness (basic education on the effects of black swans).

Network with existing groups (go open source).

An event to launch the initiative (the great unleashing).

Form working groups. 

Leverage activity with technology (social tech).

Develop visible examples of progress.

Reskilling and teaching (sharing skills/knowledge).

Connect to the government (financial risks).

Connect to elders (narratives and skills).

Let it run itself.

Complete the effort by formalizing a plan through the contributions of

the sub-groups.
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #103 of 195: John Robb (johnmrobb) Wed 14 Sep 11 15:25
    
The Transition Towns approach is focused on reducing energy
consumption and growing food locally.  However, that isn't enough.  In
order to deal with a deep and seemingly endless depression, we need to
jump start economic activity locally. To do that requires the
following.

1) Spaces.
2) Platforms.
3) Production.

Setting up spaces for innovation is critical to developing solutions. 
That includes everything from hackerspaces (places where people share
equipment, including 3D printers to make things) to seed libraries to
tool libraries.

A platform is a way to accelerate activity that would otherwise be
difficult to do solo.  It's a shared system that does routine tasks
automatically.  Connections are easy.  The more people that use a
platform, the stronger it should get.  Platforms range from community
microgrids (for local power production and distribution) to composting
systems to farmers markets.

Community production is an important activity.  Locally producing
something in abundance that people need, whether it is energy or food
or water or products, is a critical activity.  Having the capacity to
produce it, even on a small scale, could be the difference between a
community that makes it or not.
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #104 of 195: John Robb (johnmrobb) Wed 14 Sep 11 15:41
    
Whether it is a collapse or a depression really depends on where you
live.  Will the entire system stop functioning in a year or two. 
Probably not.  Will it fall into long running depression due to
financial collapse?  That's getting more likely by the day (I have a
couple of chapters in the book I'm working on that explains why it will
occur).

I believe that a global depression in the modern context will be much,
much worse than the previous global depression.  Governments will
hollow out (all show and no substance).  Supply lines will break. There
will be shortages, rationing, extreme poverty, and endemic
crime/corruption.  It's going to be ugly.

The goal, if this occurs, is to jump start economic activity at the
local level.  Get things going again. There is a silver lining though. 
The tech, technique, and knowledge necessary to build resilient,
productive, efficient, and bountiful local economies is already here. 
It gets even better when these local economies are networked.    
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #105 of 195: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Wed 14 Sep 11 16:11
    
What would be some early signs of supply lines breaking?
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #106 of 195: John Robb (johnmrobb) Wed 14 Sep 11 19:38
    
Political instability (Libya recently).  Open source warfare using
systems disruption (MEND, Naxalites, etc.).  Criminal cartels taking
over existing supply sources.  Collapsing currency (loss of local
purchasing power).  Rationing and price stability.  The list is nearly
endless.  
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #107 of 195: Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Wed 14 Sep 11 22:27
    
And, to a great extent, already here.

John, I've been meaning to ask this for awhile. With the focus on the
survival of the local community, what happens to the identity of the
nation state--not only in the sense of the survival of the state, but
in the minds of the people who belonged to it? 

You're a former military officer, as I am, and I'd suspect that given
your role when you were in you must have some pretty strong thoughts
about patriotism and the United States. I know my own identity remains
strongly connected to the notion of the United States, even if it
ceased to exist in actuality. If we are all forced to become inwardly
focused on our local communities, does national identity simply die?
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #108 of 195: John Robb (johnmrobb) Thu 15 Sep 11 05:06
    
Functionally, the nation-state is already in decline and will likely
become largely hollow (or criminal, as in:  the biggest gang on the
block). 

If I pushed the envelope of my thinking on this, it's possible that 
nation-states could remain relatively vibrant if they get small (think
corporate city-states) or if they get loose (think voluntary network or
platform).  
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #109 of 195: Tuppy Glossop (mcdee) Thu 15 Sep 11 07:18
    
I sometimes look at the current state of the U.S. and ponder whether
it's a country trying to come apart.  The combination of fecklessness
and radicalism is somewhat similar to the period before the Civil War.
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #110 of 195: John Robb (johnmrobb) Thu 15 Sep 11 07:53
    
More on these models:

In short, in a globalized environment, the old territorially focused
nation-state gets into trouble.  It loses control over borders,
communications, finances, economy, taxes, etc.  It also carries too
much legacy baggage:  people within the borders it is obligated to care
for, but don't contribute anything back.  They will, inevitably,
hollow out and either operate in a state of perpetual failure or adopt
new models such as the city state or the loose network.

Singapore is the model of a relatively well run corporate-city state. 
Small population (<10 m).  Tight control over everything, including
the city's brand.  Strict rules of conduct and 24/7 monitoring of
everything.  Finances are run as if it were a corporation and all
corporate entities (of any size) are treated as subsidiaries.  Badly
run versions of these will be terrible, particularly with what
technology enables today.  

Loose governments operate as virtual networks (online government
without a strict claim over territory).  Haven't seen this yet in
complete form.  Looks very much like e-gov services but run as a
corporate service.
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #111 of 195: John Robb (johnmrobb) Thu 15 Sep 11 07:58
    
Tuppy,  

It is devolving politically.  It's a natural process given that it is
ill suited to the environment.  It could last intact for longer if it
were well run, but the factionalism is a symptom of its malfunction. 
One thing you are seeing is that power gravitates towards global
finance, nearly all of the parties will begin to align with it rather
than with the people. 
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #112 of 195: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 15 Sep 11 08:31
    
I can't argue with that.

And sorry, I had forgotten about "Tuppy," a character from P.G.
Wodehouse's Jeeves novels...
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #113 of 195: J. Eric Townsend (jet) Thu 15 Sep 11 09:20
    
Want to make a comment about the mention of hackerspaces earlier and
local 3d printing.

My experience with hackerspaces is that they are in no way set up for
real production.  They're "tinkering clubs", usually focused on fun
projects and experimentation.  The one I belong to relies heavily on
goods produced overseas, from our laptops to our ham radios to the
chips, stepper motors, plastic, and plywood in our experimental
3d-printers and lasercutters.

I think an apt comparison of hacker spaces to fabrication facilities
would be gardening clubs to farms.    The former are a great place for
people to hang out and learn and share notes, the latter are organized
systems focused on production.

3D printers are great but we're still in the Altair 8800 days as far
as consumer-level printers go.  They are fun things to build and
tinker with but not ready for practical parts making.   We (in the
open source hardware movement) have a lot of work ahead of us to get
them as easy and safe to use as a regular household appliance.
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #114 of 195: Travis Bickle has left the building. (divinea) Thu 15 Sep 11 09:46
    
It occurs to me, reading what jet just posted, that my father was
right: when the real depression hits, people will have some respect for
tool and die men and machinists again. 
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #115 of 195: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 15 Sep 11 09:48
    
How do utilities figure into these scenarios?  Certainly both
electricity and water have worked best as government endeavors or
government-regulated monopolies in most of the world.  The distribution
systems are earth-bound and maintenance-intense, because the idea that
everybody needs access to power and water has been accepted in the
developed world.   

How can this be sustained, and what do the inequities do to us if it
is not?
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #116 of 195: J. Eric Townsend (jet) Thu 15 Sep 11 12:19
    
<divinea>, I'm surprised at how popular I became when I learned to
weld and built a lasercutter.
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #117 of 195: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Thu 15 Sep 11 13:04
    
Maybe I'm overly sheltered, but I'm having trouble imagining there
being suburban or rural areas of the U.S. where people would feel
unsafe driving, to the extent that truckers start asking for hazard pay
or won't go there at all.

There are urban places where cabs won't go, but that's a different
situation, and in some places the trend is in the other direction
toward gentrification (e.g. New York City). So the idea of supply lines
being cut in the U.S. for longer than you'd expect from an earthquake
or flooding is sounding a bit too Mad Max for me.

I do realize that there are many places in the world that do have
these problems; all you have to do is look across the border to Mexico.
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #118 of 195: John Robb (johnmrobb) Thu 15 Sep 11 13:29
    
Eric, definitely concur re: 3D printing.  We are the hobbyist phase,
as in Home Brew Computer Club, with the equipment.  It's going to get
better faster than the PC rolled out though.  A benefit of the network
effect.

Same idea with the hackerspaces.  They are indeed tinkering clubs! 
Tinkering is serious business.  It's where the action is.  It's where
the PC was turned into reality and the airplane.  Add networks to the
mix to allow information sharing and informal peer review and you get a
system that perfectly suited to the highly uncertain modern
environment.   

The reason is that if you can't plan outcomes due to randomness, the
optimal approach to success is through parallel development efforts
using a wide variety of methods in combination with a network that
readily embraces unexpected but very useful innovations. In contrast,
highly planned efforts tend to limit the number of methods/paths used
and are resistant to errant results due to bureaucratic inertia/bias.

You can see this with what is going on in warfare. Tinkering networks
did extremely well in Iraq.  For example, tinkering with IED designs
trounced the US $3 b a year program to counter them. Every counter was
defeated in weeks and the info needed to do it spread across the
network like wildfire.   I wrote a bit about this:

http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2008/04/rockets-and-ied.h
tml
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #119 of 195: John Robb (johnmrobb) Thu 15 Sep 11 13:36
    
Brian, that's hard to imagine now, but that is only a financial crises
and a couple of short years of depression away.  

We already have folks tearing down power lines and cracking open
commercial refrigeration units for a couple of hundred dollars in
copper.  A couple of years of deprivation and a loss of government
legitimacy due to inaction/insolvency and all of the models of behavior
you see currently in Mexico or Argentina will turn up here.  
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #120 of 195: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 15 Sep 11 16:48
    
The next Inkwell conversation has started, but we don't have to end
this one, which still seems to have a head of steam. We can stay as
long as John can continue making time. Speaking for the WELL, we really
appreciate the commitment of time and energy!
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #121 of 195: those Andropovian bongs (rik) Thu 15 Sep 11 16:49
    
No kidding.  This is a great conversation.
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #122 of 195: Jack King (gjk) Thu 15 Sep 11 18:27
    
I hope this post isn’t too long, but I have seen the Mad Max scenario
in a country I really like: Liberia.

What happens when a Western country collapses is: cannibalism.
Liberians had rice riots in 1979, and they devolved into 22 years of
civil war.  What that wreaked was total destruction of the
infrastructure and an 80% illiteracy rate today.

It’s in West Africa, and they never did have a great highway system,
but most people had a car or a jeep.  The roads were mostly macadam and
subject to flooding during the rainy seasons, and most country folk
had wells and outhouses, like Georgia and Mississippi up into the late
1960s, but there was electricity, and the railroad, like the American
South in the 1960s.  In fact, one could say that life in Liberia was as
good or better for English-speaking blacks than it was in the USA. 
The standard of living was way higher than it was in our South.

Liberia had a vibrant and Western culture and economy, rivaling South
Africa’s, except that their economy was based entirely on US aid
instead of natural resources.  They had cars and traffic lights and
traffic jams and electricity and television and FM and AM radio and
supermarkets and everything, but the country depended on the railroads.
Their constitution was written at Harvard in 1839-40, and our Bill of
Rights was incorporated right into it instead of being tacked on the
back.  Their government was modeled after the USA’s.  It was the
biggest CIA station on the continent.  But the aid began drying up.
Civil war broke out.

During the civil wars, the schools closed. Food became scarce as
roving bands roamed the country. The railroads were torn up.  The
locomotives and boxcars were sold overseas for scrap in order to buy
rice and bullets. The rails and bridges were torn up to buy rice and
bullets. 

Then the abandoned power stations and the transmission lines came
down, and the metals sold for scrap, to buy rice and bullets, and the
useless telephone and telegraph lines were torn down and sold for scrap
to buy rice and bullets.

No farm in the country was safe, the fields were unplanted, and the
goats and the cattle were executed by roving militias (there were about
25 of those). 

The militia kids were convinced that eating the hearts, livers and
limbs of their enemies would make them stronger and smarter and
literate.  Regional cooperation, such as it was, depended on who had
rice and bullets.

Is this our future too, John Robb.  America in West Africa degenerated
into starvation and cannibalism and illiteracy in less than a
generation, and one of the chief reasons the country is starting to
recover is ex-patriots returning from abroad to help out.  Where will
America’s ex-pats come from?
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #123 of 195: Jack King (gjk) Thu 15 Sep 11 18:32
    
(The wars ended in 2004, but the infrastructure still hasn't
recovered.  You will see piles of garbage in the streets of Monrovia
six feet high, but -- no rats!  You might think the cats keep the rats
under control, but -- not cats!  No dogs! They were all eaten a decade
or two ago, and even the rat population hasn't recovered.  Better than
eating your neighbor, I suppose, but when the rats and the rice run
out, a person gets real hungry.)
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #124 of 195: Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Thu 15 Sep 11 21:40
    
The most worrisome part of that lesson, Jack, is that Liberia did not
end up belonging to the well-run town/states or hacker communities, but
to the people with the guns and the most will to commit mayhem. 
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #125 of 195: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 16 Sep 11 04:08
    
Just great John, thanks for all the work you do.
  

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