Jack King (gjk) Fri 16 Sep 11 04:46
During the civil wars, two dictatorships arose, the first under Sgt John Doe (later executed, after Prince Johnson ate his ears while chugging a can of Bud in a popular VHS video) and the second under Charles Taylor (now on trial in The Hague). Both got some aid from the USA, but it was not enough to bring order to the country. People wanted more rice, and their old standard of living back, and had the bullets to demand those things, but not the education or skills to obtain a better life peacefully. (Most of all, they wanted the USA to come back and save them. It did not. Carter, Reagan, Bush41, Clinton, and Bush43 all had oppotunities to intervene but left our former colony adrift in anarchy, except for some aid Reagan sent to President John Doe on the advice of State and CIA.) The lessons I have taken from this is, a country can be destroyed in a few years, but a generation is not enough to rebuild it.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Fri 16 Sep 11 05:56
The two obvious enemies of an advanced industrial nation are the greedy and the crazy. The greedy are those who would damage or liquidate a country's assets for their own short-term financial gain. The crazy, in our case, include both those who are so blinded by rage that they cheer the idea of someone without health insurance dying and those who are motivated by groups like the New Apostolic Reformation, associated with both Sarah Palin and Rick Perry. One thing that makes me very pessimistic about the future of the U.S. is that both parties are controlled by the greedy, and one by a coalition of the greedy and the crazy. Many people simply lack the imagination to believe that this could be the case, and those who do understand it have nowhere obvious to turn. I don't foresee the U.S. (or any other major industrialized nation) collapsing as precipitously as Liberia did. It seems more likely that we will experience a combination of "you're on your own" moments as parts of the social order we could previously take for granted are dismantled (think Katrina) and continued agitation from the greedy and the crazy probably leading to the election of a truly radical national government. This could change if there is an outlet of some sort for the political desires of the non-greedy and non-crazy, but it seems to me that the high ground has already been seized. One irony of our situation is that eloquent punditry can easily be found explaining the crisis we are in and its roots. But still we drift towards the falls.
Gary Greenberg (gberg) Fri 16 Sep 11 11:29
>The crazy, in our case, include both those who are so blinded by rage >that they cheer the idea of someone without health insurance dying and >those who are motivated by groups like the New Apostolic Reformation, >associated with both Sarah Palin and Rick Perry. Crazy people everywhere will object to your confusing them with those folks, who are malignant or antisocial or, I don't know, callous. If only selfishness were truly a pathology, for then it would be (at least potentially) curable.
Jack King (gjk) Fri 16 Sep 11 14:46
Monrovia, Liberia (capital city), 2002. Photo by Carol Cole, L.A. Times. <http://www.toptenz.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/carolyn-cole-war-underfoot.p ng>
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Sat 17 Sep 11 07:22
Jeez! And yes, what Gary says is true.
J. Eric Townsend (jet) Sat 17 Sep 11 07:32
I was happy to see an article this morning in the local news about a couple that tore out their front yard and replaced it with native wildflowers and plants. We are very much stuck in the 1950s around here in terms of zoning and gardening, doing something like tearing out sod to plant native plants is a step short of, well, COMMUNISM. We'll see if next week there's an article about the zoning board or a HOA coming in and telling them to tear it out and go back to a yard that requires watering and mowing.
John Robb (johnmrobb) Sat 17 Sep 11 10:22
Jack, amazing recount on how Liberia devolved? Were you there? I'd love to use your recount on my blog and perhaps in my new book if you don't mind. I'm hoping Liberia doesn't happen in the US, although the level of dependency on external benefactors is likely the same. That being said, the trends I'm following point to an economic depression and a devolution of political order. In other words, the equilibrium point we've been gravitating around for the last century will cease to be a source of stability. The upshot is that we either find new ones in the decades that follow or some very bad things will happen. As you all know I'm advocating networked resilient communities as a starting point for a new source of stability. The scale invariance, extreme efficiency, strong bonds/cohesion at the small group level, etc. would make it almost impossible to break once established. Additional points in its favor: 1) it is, as a byproduct of its design, extremely friendly to the environment since it sheds little entropy, and 2) has the potential to produce advancements in the quality of life far in excess of what is even possible in the most utopian visions of the current system.
Michael Zentner (mz) Sat 17 Sep 11 12:57
>>> amazing recount on how Liberia devolved? Were you there? Uh, good gopod no. Liberia had been in the deep shit for at least 20 years.
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Sat 17 Sep 11 14:04
Jack has spent a bit of time there consulting on their legal system, and has done his homework.
Jack King (gjk) Sat 17 Sep 11 15:25
My students were former child soldiers. Let me say that after the schools had been out of business for more than 10 years, say starting around 1990, the wars were more like Lord of the Flies with pickup trucks, automatic rifles, light and heavy machineguns, and mortars. Liberia is perhaps the only country on earth that can truly say, "Made in the U.S.A." And we abandoned those folks. I'm going back when the bureaucracy at UNODC sorts things out and approves our next grant. Illiterate 20-somethings leading uneducated armed bands of teens and children across the countryside, enticed by rice and magic. And some drugs, it's true, but chiefly rice and magic. These were hungry children empowered by an AK-47 and some sadistic charismatic leaders. Funny how quickly a new generation will believe in the power of magic in as few as 10 or 12 years after the schools close. John, I have a lot of sources and resources on Liberia I would share offline rather than derail a constructive survival conversation here. Email email@example.com.
J. Eric Townsend (jet) Sat 17 Sep 11 17:08
We see a *very* mild version of this in Pittsburgh (and the rest of the rust belt), as drug addicts and criminals rip the wiring and plumbing out of abandoned houses and sell them to local scrap dealers. I sat next to a guy at the bar awhile back who had bought a place for something like $50K with plans on rehabing it, got called out of town, and came back six months later to something that was near worthless and difficult to sell. The old guy next door he was paying to watch the place had died, his family kept cashing the checks, and nobody watched his place. There's also a news story every few months about someone getting killed trying to steal metal from live transformers and junction boxes. I know nothing about the technology involved, but it seems like local power generation, water purification, and sewage processing are probably high on the problems we should be thinking about now. My digifab setup is useless without power and I'm not sure how many days of a dry spell my rain barrels will water the garden and give us something to wash with.
Jack King (gjk) Sat 17 Sep 11 17:55
When thing fall apart, there is no municipal sewerage treatment or potable water treatment. Again, Monrovia, a city that used to house about 400,000 and now has more than a million squatters on top of that living in burned out high rises. They will live in several rooms on a floor, cooking with charcoal, and use one room as a latrine. When conditions become too unbearable, they'll move up a few flights to the next unoccupied floor. "NO PEE PEE HERE" is the most common sign along the streets. "Drinking water" of unknown provenance is purchased in heat-sealed bags ... in a city of 1.4 million men, women and children. And you have to have money to buy water in a city where unemployment still pushes 70 percent. The future, in a worst case scenario, looks pretty ugly. Unless you're rich. The Mamba Point hotel stayed open during all the civil wars -- the arms dealers and the diamond dealers had to have some place to meet. Mostly Chinese stay there now, and it has good Lebanese and Italian food, a casino, a sushi bar, and if you're really rich, you can get generous shots of Johnny Walker Blue. It's surrounded by private security with AK-47s and you can't drive in unless you're a guest or have a big UN painted on your hood, but you can walk in. US dollars only, as always. If you see a Liberian government official there, s/he's on the take.
J. Eric Townsend (jet) Sat 17 Sep 11 19:12
I'm ignorant here -- how much of Liberia would have been a place people could live, farm, raise animals, etc, back in the late 19th century? If it was, how much of those same conditions exist now? Places like Phonenix, parts of SoCal, and I'm guessing much of the eastern seaboard sprawl simply cannot support themselves with local resources. Semi-rural suburbia and real rural US might fare much better -- that is assuming we don't get into a situation like Butler's "Parable" series. If all of Manhattan decided to fan out over the course of a few months, the surrounding states would be in a world of hurt.
Jack King (gjk) Sat 17 Sep 11 21:20
Unlike the USA, the whole country of Liberia is arable. It used to be a great rice producer, having two rainy seasons a year, but the droughts that started in the mid-1970s caused the rice riots of 1979. They grow a lot of corn now, but it doesn't feed as many people as rice did.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 18 Sep 11 07:07
One of the reasons I moved to Idaho is that it struck me as being a more sustainable place than San Francisco. I have chickens and ducks, I have had rabbits, I have fruit and nut trees and bushes, a garden, and outbuildings. I have friends and neighbors who are farmers and ranchers and dairymen. Also, there's a lot of LDS here, who have a couple of years' worth of food on their own, though of course they'd likely only help out each other, not everyone. I also have a whole bookshelf of things on how to garden, how to raise and butcher animals, how to build solar systems and plumbing and so on. People say, you can get all that information online. I say, what if there's no online? As far as making subdivisions more sustainable, our local chapter of the US Green Building Council just got a grant to help develop more sustainable CCRs, like eliminating restrictions on solar panels, clotheslines, xeriscaping and so on
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sun 18 Sep 11 07:29
As locally resilient communities develop how well will meshworks work? I mean, how easy will it be to work around IP providers and form actual networks and share info and data? Should we all be getting Android's and learning how to tether and set up servers and our own networks? Is that doable?
Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Sun 18 Sep 11 13:00
If they can figure it out in the hills of Afghanistan (and they have, with a little help from MIT) we can surely figure it out in the US.
J. Eric Townsend (jet) Sun 18 Sep 11 16:42
and really, it doesn't take a global economic collapse. It could be as simple as another Carrington Event: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_storm_of_1859>
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sun 18 Sep 11 20:06
It seems like step 1 of the Liberia "things fall apart" scenario is that nobody in the community has any money coming in. If we're talking, say, Florida, and you have, at a minimum, retirees getting social security checks and spending them at WalMart, that's enough to keep basic supplies coming in and limit vandalism to vacant housing. Of course, they could be scared off.
Lena M. Diethelm (lendie) Sun 18 Sep 11 20:17
So we have this scenario approaching where this next future cohort of boomer retirees and those that follow them are going to have bupkes for retirement income. They may have Social Security but it's not going to be enough. John, what is your thinking about this?
Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Sun 18 Sep 11 22:11
I think you need to understand that if things fall apart, there aren't going to be any social security checks coming in. Seriously. Given the level of complexity in the system, when things go, they are going to go quickly.
Lena M. Diethelm (lendie) Sun 18 Sep 11 22:23
Ok, so that's part of the scenario. I think a lot of us will be sleeping in the parks.
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 19 Sep 11 10:36
Maintained and open parks are one of the first things to fail, so we'll have to be early adapter squatters to have a chance. Lack of electricity is another part of falling apart that would hit people of all age groups hard, seems to me. Got 24 hours of gas for that earthquake-kit generator? Enough for some fine good-bye posts and emails.
J. Eric Townsend (jet) Mon 19 Sep 11 11:23
But you wouldn't run it for 24 hours straight. This is part of learning to live of the grid and in a community, you'd get everyone together who needed to charge a phone or use a tool or whatever and they would bring the fuel they could scrounge or hand-crank a generator. We just picked up a hand-cranked/solar/radio/light that also has a USB charging function. We can leave it in the sun all day and charge a small USB device at the same time, or spend a few hours cranking it. In parts of Africa, the trade off is pedalling the generator to charge phones. Jan Chipchase gave a great presentation on mobile phone usage in low-tech/off-the-grid countries, but I'm unable to find it online.
Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Tue 20 Sep 11 00:00
I've been going through trying to figure out what my priorities would be for electrical devices in the event of powerloss. So far, it looks like refrigerator, laptops, and cellphones. The fridge is the big one. I don't have a genset that will run that for any length of time, never mind one that has omnivorous fuel consumption. I could probably scrape by on solar, wind, and handcranking for the other stuff if I planned it right. The other thing about electrical power requirements is that they all require solutions at at least a tier 2 level of technology, so far as I can tell.
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