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Possibility of a (really) fast crash
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MacG



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 2863
Location: Scandinavia

PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2005 8:37 pm    Post subject: Possibility of a (really) fast crash Reply with quote

Hi all,

I use to think that the complexity of our societies make predictions impossible. Today I feel like expanding some of the arguments on one of the extremes of the spectrum of possible outcomes. I dont make a case that it is more or less probable, I'm just trying to expand the arguments.

When trying to predict the future it can be useful to study historical examples, the problem in our case is that there are none! We (or at least I) dont know of any previous civilisation which has reached the same degree of complexity and myriad of mutual interdependencies as ours.

This complexity could work against us to a most terrible outcome.

The case:

Our societies are immensely complex. There are so many actors involved in order to put a simple sausage in edible form on my dinner table, that the entire process can not be comprehended by one single person! There is the farmer who raise the pigs for the meat, using all possible kinds of equipment containing mechanics, hydraulics and electronics from various parts of the world, there is the truck which bring the pigs to the slaugtherhouse, the slaughterhouse itself with all it's equipment, the store, my fridge end the electric supply all over the place, etc, etc, etc. I have not touched the potatoes or the bread yet. And I'm still with basic food and has not touched the house, my job or the dentist yet.

Our societies are kept together by an extremely complex information system which tell people what to do and what not to do, namely Money.

I dont know of any previous civilisation where the overwhelming majority of the population has been so far removed from self sufficiency as ours. Most of us are absolutely depending on the monetary system to work in order to cover our most basic needs for mere day to day survival.

One might make a case that people generally are pretty clever and will find fallback strategies if one component in for example a slaughterhouse break down and has to be imported from South Korea which is temporarly impossible. Fair enough, this is true, but the complexities make detailed predictions impossible.

There is no case to make for fallback strategies in case our monetary systems fail. Can they fail? Most certainly! Bernard Lietaer made the rather sarcastic remark that "it has only happened in 89 countries during the 1900's, so why should it happen again?" Someone might object "but the banks wont be allowed to fail, government will take measures to secure them". Maybe, but this is an argumentation along an extreme line of thought, and then the global banking system CAN fail! That would leave us with all commercial activities deadlocked. THe only things possible to keep in some limping degree of functionality would be publicly operated activities.

A collapse in some hedge fund engaged in speculation leveraged by 98% borrowed money could set of a collapse in the banking system, blowing out all other leveraged speculators on most markets, taking the rest of the banking system down with them. There is no mathematical proof which say it is impossible. That would leave us in a situation where we need to develop very rapid fallback structures for our very basic needs for mere day to day survival. Heating, electricity, food and clothes. (Oh, did I mention that we buy most of our clothes and shoes from Asia? We dont even have the capability to make them anymore.)

Could we rapidly develop such fallback mechanisms? Maybe, but there are mounting evidence that our mega organisations in both government and corporations have attracted and selected people not based on genuine productive competence, instead competence is measured as "competence to work the organization". The problem seem to escalate the higher up you get in an organisation. There is a fair chance that the people we se as "leaders" today will end up completely confused and clueless in case of a real emergency - they are used to handling expectations and images, not reality.

Well, over to the nasty part. Imagine a global bank failure in December. Most parts of Europe and significant parts of the US is pretty cold and arid then. Think "London" or "Leeds-Liverpool-Manchester". Think all the poor and marginalised people living there. Think criminality today. Think electricity out. Think shops empty. Then look at what happened in Iraq when electricity and government went out at the same time. The poor people started looting rather immediately! Within a couple of days people had started scavenging the copper from the HV transmission lines to sell. It is a matter of a couple of weeks to take those lines down but litterally years to put them back, and you need a functioning infrastructure to do it at all.

The shops keep stores for a couple of days only. The insatiable greed has empowered a devil named "just-in-time". We had a slight heat wave here in Sweden this weekend, and one of the larger shops I visited this evening was almost out of beer. Imagine what would happen to the rice, pasta and conserved meatballs if people got a little bit worried about their future dinners. Also imagine that the card terminals and the ATM's were down due to the bank collapse and the shops insisted on cash payment only.

It is theoretically possible to think an 80% population reduction in just a couple of months, where all of the survivors would have direct experience of cannibalism. In one way, it could be seen as rather humane compared to a 50-100 year process with dictatorships and hardships to get to the same effect.

Could some kind soul please paint the picture at the other end of the spectrum?


Last edited by MacG on Sun Jul 10, 2005 9:58 pm; edited 2 times in total
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tattercoats



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 433
Location: Wiltshire

PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2005 9:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My word, MacG. You know how to put a damper on a lovely summer's evening... (kidding. This is needful speculation, dark as it may be.)

I'm not all the way up the other end of the spectrum myself, so I'll see whether one of the more optimistic members of the forum will oblige.

In the meantime, we do what we can; pursue self-sufficiency or the knowledge that will facilitate it, reduce our personal vulnerabilities to shortages & lack of power, water, etc, and encourage those who will listen to do likewise.

Tattercoats
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theeggman



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 120
Location: Prince Edward Island, Canada

PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2005 10:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Preparedness is absolutely vital, but may be futile unless a large proportion of the population is equally prepared and we must spread the message quite vigorously, I feel. I am concerned that we speed up our campaigning and publicity and our sharing of knowledge.

At first I found I was feeling quite cool about everything and enjoying the prospect of learning new skills. I felt there was plenty of time, but of late, I seem to feel a real sense of urgency.

I suppose we can't predict which way things will go or how quickly, but I think I feel better when we are doing something.

Hope you find someone to give the more positive reassurance you hope for, I hope someone will calm me down too!!
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snow hope



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 4101
Location: outside Belfast, N Ireland

PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2005 12:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MacG, these are the same fears I have. Sad You have articulated them very well - your English is excellent!

I work in computers and have done for 23 years. I have worked for an electricity generation, distribution and supply company, a transport company and in a small business supplying computer systems to a couple of hundred companies in Ireland.

I know all about the complexity of computer systems, 'just in time' supply chains and equally as scary (if not more so) complex systems that have been developed over the last decade entirely dependant on the uninterrupted availability of the Internet. If the Internet goes down goods will stop moving! Even when email systems go down it becomes a major issue if it persists more than 8 hours.

Just about all business' whether private or public companies are highly reliant upon computers and various computer systems. IF electricity stops for any period of time more than a few hours, problems will arise. A few days and we will have empty supermarkets!

As MacG says we could become victims of our own complexity in a very short space of time. Take heed!
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isenhand



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2005 6:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In someways it can be considered that the monetary system has already failed. The high level of borrowing and national debt can be considered attempt to prop up a failed system. But your, analysis of the situation is a real possibility and one that we should aim to cover for. After all, that is just good risk management. Self-sufficiency is one way but I would also advocate networking.

Smile
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GD



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 1099
Location: Devon

PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2005 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MacG wrote:
Could some kind soul please paint the picture at the other end of the spectrum?


Nope! Smile This is of course what I have been worried about since reading Bernard Lietaer?s ?the Future of Money? although not quite as gloomy as you presented.

I tried to envisage a (not quite so drastic) scenario before the boards got hit, which discussed the lack of skills in this country (probably the same for most of ?the west? though) where much of the knowledge and abilities have been lost, and most people nowadays will not have the knowledge to work their way out of trouble. I?m talking about basic problem solving and team working / cooperation, keeping a cool head in a crisis, knowledge of community currency, as well as the domestic arts and crafts and permaculture (and others?). Not only do many people not know how to do this, they do not know they exist.

I?m wondering how many people will die not even having heard of ?peak oil? (years after the peak, even), let alone understand the ins and outs of an economy based upon infinite growth (the flaws of which were pointed out, well over 200 years ago).

One thing that worries me even more now is that since I have learned about the [url=http://www.community4me.com/communitybldg1.html]?four stages of community?[/url], I have realised just how much ?rugged individualism? has taken over our culture (and in Bernard Lietaer?s simple model*, highly individualistic priorities coupled with a monetary crash leads to his ?hell on earth? scenario).

The other scenario is that the depletion curve is gentle? higher oil prices stimulate a reversal of globalisation, and a mass wake up call about the economy. Relocalised economies would be more resilient (than currently!) to a financial shock.
However this process could take years.

I suppose it all depends upon timing, how long have we got to educate people.


(Of course, I would have to proffer what?s on this link:)

-----------------

*For more on this see his book!
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RevdTess



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 2933
Location: Newquay

PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2005 4:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

GD wrote:

One thing that worries me even more now is that since I have learned about the [url=http://www.community4me.com/communitybldg1.html]?four stages of community?[/url], I have realised just how much ?rugged individualism? has taken over our culture (and in Bernard Lietaer?s simple model*, highly individualistic priorities coupled with a monetary crash leads to his ?hell on earth? scenario).


I got into the Peck model of community building back in the mid 90s (ye gods, was it so long ago?) and went to one full CB event (which was overwhelmingly intense). The description of the event on the webpage you linked is very similar to my experience. In fact you could imagine me as the lady who stood up and declared, "You're all phonies!" because I did the same thing. It certainly got us all into 'chaos' but it offended one woman so much that she kept bringing it up for two days, eventually shouting her anger at me face to face. I accepted it without comment, figuring that it was only right I should pay the price for my earlier accusation...

As I said, an intense experience. The emptiness and community at the end were blissful, but so shortlived. We had about 15 minutes before everyone departed. Some of us tried to continue meeting in small groups but we quickly ended up back in pseudocommunity.

Still, I think this experience changed the way I relate to people quite fundamentally. Before the CB event I was very shy, afraid to upset people. Afterwards, I began to take the view that conflict was almost necessary on the path to community and so I figured that instead of being afraid of disagreement I may as well express myself and take what comes. Trouble is, 99% of people see any 'conflict' as wrong and indicative of personal flaws in one person or another.

Basically what I'm saying is that Peck's CB model changed me - but not necessarily in a helpful way. It's great for me that conflict doesn't faze me, but not for those around me who take it all too seriously. Far from seeing my acceptance and opening up, people hide from me, fearing judgement.

I'm still a fan of the Peck model, but beware what it unleashes.
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khim



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 12:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gosh. Monetary crash is nothing new. Not really. It happened a lot of times in last 100 years - we know enough about it to know what'll happen. Two possibilities:
1. Marauders and total anarchy.
2. Martial law and "execution on the spot".
Surprisinly small per cent of people must be executed before correct operation of vital components is in order (water, power, not fresh "kiwi ice-cream") - money or no money. Either plumber is fixing the stuff for "benefits in the future" or he's dead and his work is done by soldier.

Cannibalism will be rare enough at first: by the time normal human person becomes desperate enough to attempt it he's too weak. And "non-normal" ones will be exterminated long before that - by rivals in case of 1 or by martial law in case 2. Later... yes, corpses will be used as food, but that's it.

Later still... there are more global problems. When dollar will collapse (note: I said "when" not "if") exchange between countries will be hard for some time - but eventually something will be invented.

P.S. And I think this is why U.S. can borrow like "there are no tommorow": in a sense there are none. It'll be different world, but not that different.

P.P.S. I'm not sure if it's "other end of the spectrum". It's more like what happened in countries where this actually happened in last 20 years or so: Iraq, Yugoslavia, Russia. Сollapse of banking system is not the end of world - not even close. Even if it's really unpleasant thing.
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isenhand



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 6:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wouldn?t it be advisable to have a plan in place ready for such an out come?
Wink
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fishertrop



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2005 9:59 pm    Post subject: Re: Possibility of a (really) fast crash Reply with quote

I really like MacG's post, he went right off the deep end - in all the right ways!!

A couple of observations if I may...

MacG wrote:

I dont know of any previous civilisation where the overwhelming majority of the population has been so far removed from self sufficiency as ours.


Bingo !



MacG wrote:

A collapse in some hedge fund engaged in speculation leveraged by 98% borrowed money could set of a collapse in the banking system, blowing out all other leveraged speculators on most markets, taking the rest of the banking system down with them.


That's a personal favourite of mine, and need have nothing to do with PO.
Have you seen The Man Who Broke Britain?

MacG wrote:

Heating, electricity, food and clothes. (Oh, did I mention that we buy most of our clothes and shoes from Asia? We dont even have the capability to make them anymore.)


At least we have what clothes we have now, which is probably sufficient for the short term

MacG wrote:

Could some kind soul please paint the picture at the other end of the spectrum?


No! But I can say this:

Whilst many people in the Uk (and prob Europe) would be on the fast-track to looting and anarchy and a great many reasonable people would end up slipping that way also, I think it's true that a huge number of people would recognise the situation for what it was and act with some form of appropriateness.

Take any middle-class housing estate with families, kids - the parents of these households cannot go bananas, loot and rob with any great sucess (tho a few might try) and they prob get along with their neighbours. They are quite likely to band together, to group into a unit to protect, primarly, their families.

If these people work together, pool resources, think smart, defend as a unit (and with the ruthlessness that is probably needed) then they have a chance.

Most people don't want to fight in the street for a tin of peas, and if they can organise themslves into some form of working unit then they have a chance to progress.

In the Uk at least, the gov isn't going to the surrender their power overnight, I think you can expect martial law and controlled food distribution. If you get some basic supplies and you have a community, a group of people, you can build from their.

After the first week or so of rioting and looting, you enter a new phase where one desperate looter with a knife cannot survive against soldiers protecting the food depots and a commuinties of people working as a unit.

If we have a plan, then at least we can influence our communities while all around are loosing their heads.
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RogerCO



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2005 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's an interesting idea of Fishertrop's - the housing estate as a basic social unit in collapsing towns and cities.
If I lived in such a place my preparations would certainly include starting to get to know at least the names and faces of my couple of hundred nearest neighbours.
Unlike the US suburbs our housing tends to be somewhat higher density and an estate consists of front (and back) doors within easy walking distance of each other - making it a viable post car social, organisational, and even working unit.
You could imagine specialisms and trade emerging as people on one estate discover that they have got good carpentary skills and set up a workshop to enable them to barter wooden (from scrap) items for windmills made of old car panels and alternators by a group of ex-car mechanics on the next estate.
Life will go on, just not as we know it...
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fishertrop



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2005 7:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And many recent housing estates, esp middle class ones, tend to have clear and sometimes physical boarders (the wisdom of this is another topic...).

So you tend to get semi-fenced-in estates with discreate entry and exit points. Such a boundry not only reinforces the resident's feelings of a "unit" but is also a ready made perimeter that can be secured.

Many such estates have housing interest groups or neighbourhood watch groups - you can attend these just to say hello and meet people.

If just one person on each estate has thought baout this in advance and when the crunch comes is knocking on every door asking "the estate is having a meeting on the park at 10am, will you come?" then that one person can lead (or at least start) some form of basic co-opertation.

Since estates tend to contain all of one type of person (again, you can debate that untill the cows come home) there is more chance that such a group will bond together.

My estate has about 120 houses on it, thats probably 240 adults and maybe the same again kids - that's 120 able bodied men to secure the place (with their kids as motivation) and about 250 pairs of hands that can get things done.
It's a big enough group to be effective without being too big to manage.
If we tore up all the pavement and roads for extra space to grow veg (on top of every ones garden space) then we would at least be able to produce SOME food in a secure area.

When you take such an area and number of people and start thinking about what you can do with (say) the 100+ cars on every one's driveways and all the defunct lawn-mowers you start to see a chink of light that looks like some form of part self-sufficient living.

Does anyone know of any sources / have any experience of "leading" people in this way, to get them to work together and avoid in-fighting etc ??
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SherryMayo



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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Location: Melbourne, Australia

PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2005 11:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Does anyone know of any sources / have any experience of "leading" people in this way, to get them to work together and avoid in-fighting etc ??"

The info at this page is useful in this regard. It comes from Robert waldrop
http://www.justpeace.org/printflyers.htm He is part of a church-based group in the US that provide emergency food relief for the poor and also emergency distaster relief.

Especially go down to the section: "Printable Flyers for use during a big, long-lasting, fast-happening disaster. . ." and look at especially #5 "Building community during a disaster" and "Disaster Prep on a limited budget" - all the other leaflets are great too.

My approach to PO is becoming community based and I take an oblique approach that getting involved in community activities that are non-PO-related is worthwhile because it is building the invisible community infrastructure and relations that will stand us in good stead in hard times. I'm a bit of a solitary individual by nature and allergic to committees so this is a new thing for me.


Last edited by SherryMayo on Mon Jul 18, 2005 12:58 am; edited 1 time in total
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tattercoats



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2005 12:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fishertrop wrote:

My estate has about 120 houses on it, thats probably 240 adults and maybe the same again kids - that's 120 able bodied men to secure the place (with their kids as motivation) and about 250 pairs of hands that can get things done.


Aw, c'mon, Fishertrop, it's more that that - able bodied men? We on the distaff side tend to get a little tetchy when our offspring are threatened, you know? We can, too, shoot, throw things, and swing big sticks...

... and so can our teenagers...

...and you'd be surprised what the younger ones can do in terms of Getting Things Done once they've been shown. A two-year-old can pick blackberries, gather fallen apples, collect eggs, feed livestock, churn butter...

...and the Less Able Bodied can do plenty as well.

Against that increase in figures stands the number of single parent households - fewer arms, also fewer mouths, and possible spare rooms for all kinds of usages.

I'm not ranting. I'm *not*. I agree with everything else, really. I'm a mild-mannered, biddable, agreable... ruthless and cold-blooded fighter, at least when my family are threatened.

Sorry. Had to say it.

Tattercoats

(who would have loved to be at Bedzed on Sat but is glad all went so well.)
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fishertrop



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2005 2:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

tattercoats wrote:

Aw, c'mon, Fishertrop, it's more that that - able bodied men? We on the distaff side tend to get a little tetchy when our offspring are threatened, you know? We can, too, shoot, throw things, and swing big sticks...


Oooops!

Didn't mean to cause offence!

It was primarily a figure of speach but also the prospect of a group of people with big sticks beating off violent chavs is not an image I immediately associated with women or kids..... (sorry!)

I totally agree that kids can make a real contribution - the numbers I used were rounded down to be conservative.

The point you raise about being well-motivated to protect your family is precisely the one I was refering to. It's a powerful force and one that can go some way to offsetting post-peak upheaval.
In such circumstances people are prepared to fight-to-protect and to work hard at projects - if you can get a group of people like this you can get things done.

In the potential chaos of a post-peak world you can (in my view) make a real difference with such a motivated and organised group.

Also, thanks to SherryMayo for that information !
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