The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

We Are Going To Go Thru Hell, So What Now?

I was born in 1968, the year Wallerstein calls one of “world revolution”. It was a revolution that both failed and succeeded: women and minorities got more rights, often a lot more, but the end result was an oligarchy, where most people were equal in their lack of power, and where every year saw ordinary people becoming poorer, no matter what the official statistics claimed.

The 70s were the heyday of environmental possibility: everyone understood the stakes, and it seemed for a time that we would act.

President Carter famously put solar panels on the White House, and President Reagan famously had them removed.

And really, that was that. A lot of people fought, and fought hard, to stop environmental collapse and climate change, but really it was all over when Reagan and Thatcher took power and neoliberalism came to the fore. The ideology simply did not, could not and would not care about something so far in the future when there were rich people to make richer.

The larger point is that climate change is baked in. It’s going to happen, it’s going to be very bad. Numbers are hard, but I expect billions of climate refugees over the next 60 years, at least a billion dead, and probably more, and the collapse of multiple countries into anarchy and warlordism while most of the rest become poorer.

There are those who call this “doomerism”, but it’s simply a matter of facing the facts as they are. We are increasing drilling for oil and gas, not decreasing it. Animals and plants are still dying off; the Amazon is almost certainly past the tipping point for viability and is now producing more CO2 than it stores, while everyone know the Great Barrier Reef is doomed. In India we have ground temperatures in the 50s and 60s in May and the government has made it illegal to export grain.

There’s no stopping this. We will only act decisively when it is far too late. The glaciers will be doomed, etc, etc.

So, the question is what to do?

The answer is to stop pretending it isn’t going to happen and to prepare for it. We know there will be less water. We know there will be more heat. We know that weather will be more extreme, with more and more powerful storms and more rain in many places. We know that there will be marine inundations in low lying coastal cities. We know that we will lose our commercial fisheries. We know that far fewer areas will be suitable for agriculture and that most of those will be less fertile than they are today.

And so on.

We need to prepare for this. Start building the seawalls and the desalinization plants and so on.

Those who are concerned with the political future should understand that what will matter is who survives and how well. If a group you approve of survives disproportionately well, in both numbers and quality, they will have power in the world to come.

It’s no longer about some version of “save everyone”, it’s about “who will be saved, and how well will they be saved.”

You are going to have to make decisions: you are going to have to choose who you want to help live and maybe even prosper, and who you’re washing your hands of; who you’re going to let die, or maybe even give a shove. (I’m in favor of giving our elites a shove when the time comes, we don’t need the psychopath faction around.)

For a long time we’ve lived in a world where if we gave a damn we could have easily fed and housed everyone and given them healthcare. We didn’t, since psychopaths run our societies, but we could have and it would have cost nothing noticeable except to people who want others scared.

Soon this will no longer be true globally, and then it will be true in almost all countries, even ones considered rich today.

We talk a lot about what individuals can do, and what groups can do, but we rarely talk about groups. It is at the group level that most individuals can have the most influence: perhaps by creating communes or agrarian societies, perhaps thru churches, perhaps through other organizations like monasteries. Individuals, really, are always weak, but groups can be strong.

Look for those groups to join, or consider joining with others to create them. This is where your greatest point of leverage can be found and it’s where you can contribute most to changing the shape of the future to a better one.

We’re going to go thru hell, that’s now a given. But how will we treat each other while in Hell? And what societies will come into being at the other end?



Refreshing Honesty About Bank Loans & Environmental Destruction


Spring of a Down, by Stirling Newberry, Chapters 1-3


  1. StewartM

    President Carter famously put solar panels on the White House, and President Reagan famously had them removed.

    Maybe that wasn’t the absolute beginning of movement conservatism of Buckley-Goldwater-Reagan becoming a movement hellbent on reality denial, but it was key.

    Why be surprised? The CoVID, vaccine, climate, and other denialisms are the logical outgrowth for a system that claimed it would create a dynamic, growth economy that lifted all boats, instead of doing what it eventually did: produce a paper-asset dependent, stagnant, anemic growth (if any growth, depends on the true inflation modifier) economy. Conservatives used to accuse New Dealers of ‘wealth transfer’ (their crumbs given to the poors) but movement conservatism did wealth transfer from everyone else to the top 5 % on a scale unprecedented in history.

    Their propagandists have tried to cover this up for decades now, by manipulated stats and now they have just given up and just simply proclaim the Reagan economy great by fiat. As you know, conservatism can never fail; it can only be failed, it’s a religion now.

  2. Mark Level

    “When we excavate the remains of past civilizations, we rarely find any evidence that they made any attempts to adapt in the face of a changing climate. I view this inflexibility as the real reason for collapse.”– Dr. Jason Ur, Harvard Univ., link at–
    Well, Dr. Ur’s one of the few smart ones there at Harvard, most of his colleagues are running us right over the cliff at 90 mph due to their blind, insane ideology of Mammon worship. Ian, does the “Hell” refer to what just happened in the US, the woman-owning and hunting (or suing for practicing bodily autonomy), Mexican-beating, gun masturbating Great State of Texas and the deaths of (last I looked) 21, mostly children, as well as a few adults? I know that you are Canadian . . . & returning to the wisdom of the Harvard Elites & the PMC, “center left” (hahaha!) or far Right which the duopoly Ruling Class gather safely in, one of their “brightest” chose to troll the victims’ families with a Steve Pinkerish Tweet about how GREAT America is compared to everyone else, just ignore those pesky dead kids, they got to live in the greatest country ever for 10 or 11 years, that’s good enough!! Let’s not forget that Jeffrey Epstein was often photographed with his BFFs Pinker, Larry Summers (he of the “girls can’t do math,” “let’s get rid of that pesky Glass-Steagall so Morgan Stanley can rob all you suckers blind”, $2Billion losing of Harvard Equity to vulture capitalists) & MAGA-brain Allen Dershowitz (who defended Claus Von Bulow for killing his wife and whose first wife died mysteriously of “suicide” after their divorce) . . . but the taunting post wasn’t from any of these sociopathic bird brains, it was from the great “liberal” Matt Yglesias, who attained pundit success lauding what a great Enterprise Bush Junior’s 2003 Iraq Invasion, torture, etc. would be. Matty would just like to remind us things are fine ‘n dandy for his ilk, “we” live in the bestest country ever in all of known human history, no need of “thoughts & prayers” even for those dead kiddies (which the gun nuts will at least pretend to send), let’s just enjoy our brunch and the Uber home, economic inequality and Climate Change aren’t real, & after all the public was so dumb in 2016 not to have agreed with Hillary that “America is Already Great.”– If your gag reflex isn’t too strong, peruse Yglesias’ triumphalist Tweet here–

  3. Keith in Modesto

    “Look for those groups to join, or consider joining with others to create them.”

    So does anyone have any thoughts on how to go about actually doing this? Maybe this blog could host an ongoing thread on joining or starting resilient/survivalist communities alongside the “Open Thread” and “Preparing for Bad Times” threads.

  4. Ché Pasa

    There are well more than 100 intentional communities in New Mexico, not including such famous or notorious outfits like the Mormons and so on. There are thousands intentional communities around the country and many thousands more around the world. There is no lack of forming or well established communities of like minded individuals and families who intend to live, work and survive together through thick and thin.

    Not all are set up as farming or permaculture endeavors — in fact, most aren’t. Many that aren’t set up that way now can be, and most have established relationships with local food producers. Some are spiritual/religious communities first and foremost, but many impose no particular religious belief.

    Our household’s choice quite some time ago now was to find a rural community in New Mexico where it was possible to live independently in an already built home — preferably historic — where we’d have enough land to establish compact gardens for growing vegetables and fruits, where we could become community members (and not be ostracized for being from California!), relatively close to necessary services (both of us need treatment for chronic conditions, for example) and — I know, selfish — with paved roads — rare in parts of New Mexico.

    Despite the fact that we’ve seen a surprising number of people move here since we did, the Census says the population has fallen by 300 or so since 2010. I think there are probably 300 more people living in the area, but what do I know. Total population is still well under 2,000 though.

    Water, of course, is the limiting factor, just as it was in ancient times. We don’t know what will happen in the future, but because we’re at an elevation above 6,000 ft, it’s thought we’ll likely have enough rainfall and snowfall to recharge the aquifer indefinitely. Well… We’ll see, won’t we? The past few seasons have not been promising.

    If you’re looking for an intentional community, check out the Foundation for Intentional Communities.

  5. Gaianne

    Concise and nice.
    Well done, Ian!

  6. anon y'mouse

    it is almost impossible to convince even one person in this country that things are going to fall to pieces. and by that i mean one person close to you, that knows that you aren’t a total kook (or accepts those kooky things about you as what makes you interesting).

    i tried to convince my spouse for years to move to a smaller, more rural place and hopefully get some land and start doing things. i even tried to convince him to turn his trade to a more environmentally sound one (plumbers just throw out stuff that doesn’t work. why? because it’s cheaper to buy another badly made sink, faucet, or toilet than repair the existing one and customers don’t want to pay for labor on repairs), but he couldn’t be bothered about any of this. he had a basic inability to admit that the world was changing for the worse and to prepare for it. now stretched on forever.

    and it is that way with most people that you talk to in the U.S. either they are doing ok doing whatever they are doing, thus have no real need to change anything, or they are too busy struggling to survive in an immediate way and can’t take on more burdens or handle a future past the next month or two.

    individualism has seeped into most of society. the rest have that term that i despise: “learned helplessness” (it’s not learned in any conscious way, so can’t be unlearned in a conscious way either. it’s learned in a deep, bodily, subconcious way and probably effects the nervous system and all reactions and even perceptions similar to the way a personality disorder does). unless people are already enmeshed in a community of some kind that functions to support each other, i don’t see how many of us can join up. most especially if we lack the social status and money that many of these planned communities require. this is rather like how people who were damaged in their social relations in childhood have a real pain in life with their interpersonal relationships for the rest of their life. they don’t even know how to function healthily within such a relationship, and other adults have no time nor patience trying to help them to figure it out either.

    meanwhile, our press and political class and all of those think tanks dream up new ways to make us distrust and resent our neighbors, or exploit the fault lines that were already there since this country has never truly had a culture beyond making money (“the hustle” Morris Berman calls it), so there’s been no community to join for the everwashing waves of immigrant poor labor who struggle to make the Overclass richer.

    sorry, i added my social doomerism to your environmental doomerism. i think we need the input of some marriage and family counselors, and some therapists that handle the personality disordered, complex ptsd and attachment issues in childhood to tell us how we can recover from what we are before we go trying to form anything to survive what is to come. but there’s probably no time or money for that either.

  7. John

    I have been fortunate to live in a lush rural area of western Virginia in the same place for 35 years.
    When I first moved here, spring would herald the awakening of a mass insect population active around the clock.
    This year it seems I’m living in Rachael Carson’s Silent Spring.
    The loss of insect and bird life will beat the rising water to the punch.
    I kinda miss those beautiful moths attracted to the porch light at night. I also realize that porch light is part of the problem.
    I’m pretty on board with the Michael Dowd Post Doom movement. I see it as how to be a Death Doula for civilizational collapse.
    As Ian always says, kindness has to be the foundation of response.

  8. Feral Finster

    Contemplate The Iron Law of Oligarchy.

    What are seeing now is but a reversion to the mean.

  9. All seems very pessimistic – climate change is of course a disaster that will harm millions and seriously slow growth in living standards, but even the more extreme scenarios won’t leave the average person a century from now worse off than the average person today.

  10. js

    “or they are too busy struggling to survive in an immediate way and can’t take on more burdens or handle a future past the next month or two.”

    And we really should extend this beyond those living paycheck to paycheck and running out of money before the next paycheck and so on. Many are just psychologically overwhelmed with personal trauma, personal bad luck (say more than their share of grief in a short time period), too much to do (say caretaking multiple generations), or just living in this society.

    But never mind that, let’s just stick to the Economic Survival issue for those with no other complications. You want to prepare for a worse future let’s say? What is relevant, preparing for the collapse of civilization or preparing to survive the next recession and/or possible unemployment? Because you aren’t living on the bare end of survival, you have a small amount of wiggle room let’s say. So what makes sense, building up an emergency fund to pay your bills during the next recession/bout of unemployment and investing in skillsets/education/work experience/whatever that means if luck allows one can be employed or find a job in the next recession or … Because capitalism can continue longer than one can survive betting against it as well.

  11. different clue

    @Keith in Modesto,

    As a mere reader and 3rd tier commenter, I can only say that this sounds like a good idea to me. If our host agrees . . . . after long and careful consideration . . . . maybe he will offer us such a once-a-week survivalism thread. Perhaps every Sunday, right up there with the Wikrent Weekly Wrap-up. Maybe it could even be called ” Survival Sunday”.

    But that’s just a thought.

  12. Ché Pasa

    Most of the intentional communities I’m familiar with are organized around nonviolent principles, living lightly on the earth, building a better future and showing the way toward a better future for the suffering masses.

    Some are organized for defense or aggression against such people, or really anyone who isn’t Themselves.

    Which would be more likely to survive when everything goes to shit is actually an open question in my mind. The aggressive/defensive communities, armed to the teeth, prepped out the wahzoo, and eager for confrontation and worse would seem to have the edge, no? But to my mind, the kind of people they attract are not themselves “sustainable.” The internal stresses and animosities alone can implode such communities and they don’t bode well for a positive future.

    On the other hand, the nonviolent communities attract a certain sort whose idealism can leave them open to exploitation — or extermination — by the more aggressive ones and the inability to protect against it.

    In the United States and probably Canada, there’s a strong upper middle class/higher educational vibe to the nonviolent models. Working class tends to gravitate toward the more aggressive/defensive, armed to the teeth-prepper models. I remember a long time ago that some of the surplus children/grandchildren of East Coast upper class mandarins wound up in communes on the West Coast, but that was then. I’d imagine you’re not going to find a lot of that now. The Upper Classes tend to form their own hermetically sealed intentional communities that fully intend to survive any potential disaster and flourish in the aftermath.

    Religious communities are actually some of the strongest and most likely to survive in my estimation. Think Mormons as a high-profile example. They are ready. And they intend to get through any impending Doom scenario as nearly intact as possible.

    But I’m aware of some very small monastic communities that are just as “ready” and likely to persist pretty much no matter what. I know of at least one Franciscan monastery in New Mexico, for example, that has only a handful of monks, but they have prepared extensively, have a farm/rural retreat, an urban center, outreach for service among the oppressed and disfavored, and have made strong connections with other Catholic and non-Catholic communities for mutual aid.

  13. bruce wilder

    even the more extreme scenarios won’t leave the average person a century from now worse off than the average person today

    “We cannot know the future.” It is a truism, I suppose. The actual, realized future will not be real until it is, and will not known except to those alive to experience it and inevitably elements of it will be unexpected by us, the dead progenitors of much of what will be.

    I think the climate models have become remarkable science in a short time, but those aspects are only a part of the consequences of 20th and early 21st century civilization. The increasing acidity of the oceans will have consequences more catastrophic and immune to mitigation than heatwaves or mega rainstorms. The locust-effect of burgeoning human population is already apparent — but maybe pandemics will chip away or nuclear war will cut a swath — someone will see.

    I think fundamental wisdom recognizes that the root problem in the economics of it all is waste, but I rarely encounter anyone who understands that, understands that what is required first and foremost is restraint, conservation, less not more. Not substitution of mythically “sustainable” techno-wonders, but less waste from less energy use.

    Whether people need be “worse-off” from reducing collective use of energy in human “production” activity is a nice question for economists. I think much of how we use energy now to produce is marginally “wasteful” as in pointless or counterproductive and we would be better off if we simply refrained. Refrained from war. Refrained from salesmanship.

    That view leads me to think it is not possible that an earth with more humans congesting its sphere producing more junk, and more waste and pollution than the earth’s natural systems can assimilate, with consequent ecological collapse and exhaustion of resources — an average person in that scenario is not going to be better off amidst the wreckage and ruin.

    Perversely, I can imagine enough horror in the meantime, that an average person in a much reduced remnant of human civilization might emerge on the other side of civilizational collapse “better off”, but collapse will take more than a century, so a 100 years from now? Unlikely.

    Restraint is just not winning the argument.

  14. different clue

    I thought up another possible title for a weekly survival-focused feature if our host decides such a thing would be genuinely useful.

    Long Death March through the Valley of Selection

    again, just a thought . . .

  15. different clue

    Or maybe it could be called Life and Death in the Valley of Selection.

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