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Abandoning a fossil fuel powered civilization means abandoning civilization?

General Ideas


In the 1950s, the Italian anthropologist Fosco Maraini (1912-2004) had a chance to witness the tremendous cultural shock that the Japanese society experienced the defeat of the 2nd world war. He described his experience in the book “Meeting with Japan”, published in 1960. We may expect to go through something similar worldwide as we experience the cultural shock of having to abandon fossil fuels.
I am writing this post just after having gone through one of the usual exchanges in the comments of a blog. You know how it goes: it is based on the idea that “renewables will never be able to replace fossil fuels.” The reasons are always the same: renewables are intermittent, renewables cannot provide liquid fuels, renewables cannot fly wide-body planes, renewables cannot do this, renewables cannot do that. And if we try to move to renewables, we’ll go back to barbarism.
At the basis of this position, there is the total refusal to face any change, to abandon the business as usual (BAU) paradigm. Those who are used to BAU cannot imagine a different world. So, it is inconceivable for them that the supply of power may vary in time; it is inconceivable that they wouldn’t be able to have their car parked in front of the entrance of their home, it is inconceivable that they wouldn’t be able to buy cheap tickets for their deserved vacations in Hawaii.
Every time I read this kind of exchanges, I am reminded of the book of Fosco Maraini “Meeting with Japan”, published in 1960. There, Maraini tells his experience in Japan before and after the second world war and of the tremendous cultural shock that the Japanese experienced with the defeat. In the book, we read of a Japan that’s unusual for us, today: a shocked Japan, a poor Japan, a nation of people who were desperately trying to adapt to a world that had changed in ways they had never imagined as possible. But, no matter how they disliked the new world, they had no choice.

A paragraph of the book that has forever remained in my mind tells of a restaurant, somewhere in the Japanese countryside, that Maraini describes as (p 116 of the 1st edition):

…. one of those monstrous local taverns where all the styles of history seem to have been distilled into a final residue of hideousness. Sensitive and discriminating as the Japanese are when they move within the orbit of their own civilization, they become barbarians when they renounce their past and mimic foreign ways … Renouncing a civilization means renouncing civilization.

 … the bare concrete floor was plastered with congealed mud. When the Japanese abandon tatami, the straw mats on which they walk with bare feet, they are left with a psychological void. The floor, not being tatami, is merely an extension of the street: the street brought into the house.

And there we are: when we think of abandoning fossil fuels, we are left with a psychological void. Abandoning the fossil fuel powered civilization means abandoning civilization and a world not being powered by fossil fuels can only be the extension of the barbarian ages of the past. Barbarism brought into our world.

But no matter how much some of us dislike the new world we will be experiencing, we have no choice. I think we are in for quite some cultural shock!

75 Comments on "Abandoning a fossil fuel powered civilization means abandoning civilization?"

  1. makati1 on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 3:26 am 

    Ap, he is getting blamed for everything from the collapse of the Arctic ice cover to the heat invading the US to Hillary’s poor showing at the DNC. Desperation breeds insanity and the US elite are getting desperate. Insanity is obvious.

  2. Kenz300 on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 4:04 am 

    Watch The Climate Change Ad Fox News Didn’t Want Its Viewers To See

    The top 1% want it all….. and the RepubliCON party will give it to them………..

    What do RepubliCONS believe…….. depends who is paying….. follow the money……. fossil fuels….. oil, coal natural gas…, nuclear, NRA………the top 1%

    Are RepubliCONS the real EVIL DOERS………..they want to end Social Security, Medicare and access to contraception…….

    RepubliCONS are the reason the middle class is shrinking……

  3. sunweb on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 6:35 am 

    Boat – embrace your hypocrisy by calling people doomer. I embraced my behavior years ago.
    I am polluting our ground water by using the natural gas from fracking. I am creating havoc in the oceans by spilling life-killing oil. I am also plasticizing the oceans. I am also limiting or eliminating species after species in the ocean, on the land, in the air. I am putting my medicines into the rivers and the water supply. I am greedily creating food sources that only I control. I am removing the topsoil. I am gouging huge holes in the earth. I am burning coal and creating nuclear waste for thousands of years to come for my flat screen television, my computer and my DVD player. I am putting mercury and acids into the air, water and life. I am melting the ice caps and the glaciers. I am heating the planet to drive my snowmobile, my wave runner, and my four-wheeler and to drive to any damn place I want. I am using many people to cater to my many whims.

    I saw the DVD “What a Way to Go” yesterday. It was very well done in listing the freight train laden with our woes coming straight at us. The many speakers continually said, “we are doing this” and “we are doing that”. They must have been talking about me. Because I am aware of these things and more and I keep doing it.
    John Weber
    Busy in Northern Minnesota doing all these things and more.

  4. JuanP on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 7:36 am 

    Mak “JuanP, I have also experienced a problem loading the PO site and getting comments to register.”
    I’ve had the same problem posting comments, and I started selecting and copying all my comments systematically before posting them. I never experienced that problem before, but now it happens to me all the time. There is nothing more frustrating than losing a long comment when you post it.

    I know that excessively patriotic and nationalistic Americans will probably believe I am being paranoid, but I think the NSA, CIA, or some other fucking American agency is behind this. Anyway, my guess is that by now I have already offended Americans so much that many, if not most, of them disregard my comments as biased or ridiculous. I don’t care either way. I will keep telling the truth as I see it. I don’t care if people get offended, as I have said many times before, I am not here to make friends. I have no friends in this world and I don’t want to have any friends either.

  5. JuanP on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 7:45 am 

    And, Mak, thanks for telling me you had this problem, too. Now I can be sure that it is not a problem on my end. I wondered about that since I am not particularly computer literate. I knew more about computers as a child than I know now. Once I realized that technology was part of the problem rather than part of the solution I completely lost my interest in high technology. I am into primitive technologies and have been for four decades now. I will use a flashlight, but I don’t care how it works. I can make some pretty awesome candles, though! Select all, copy, and post! LOL!

  6. JuanP on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 7:50 am 

    Sunweb, Boat believes in PO, CC, and collapse, he just doesn’t believe that it will happen to him. LOL!

  7. ponente on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 7:54 am 

    This is happening all over the Bahamas including the Far Bahamas Island,every year more people coming to the island and impacting the area really hard!!!
    There is not solution to our problems,we really are a very invasive species!!

    Disney is moving ahead with plans to build a cruise ship pier on Egg Island, North Eleuthera. Among many concerns is that Egg Island’s natural beauty and ecology will be destroyed if Disney proceeds with its plans to develop the island.

    Click here for full article on Disney possibly developing on Egg Island as a new cruise ship destination.

    There is an online petition titled Save Egg Island (Bahamas)! Stop Disney Cruise Line! Preserve Egg Island! #saveeggisland.

    Winding Bay, Abaco, Update
    Posted: 24 Jul 2016 12:08 PM PDT
    Just wanted to give you an update on Winding Bay’s latest shenanigans.

    RDA (Responsible Development for Abaco), with a lot of help from Fred Smith, filed for a Judicial Review against 9 government departments for “lack of consultation”. As a result, BEST posted the EIA, EMP, latest site plan, and a couple of cover-your-ass letters on their website ( They also called a town meeting in Cherokee Sound on June 27th. At the meeting, the developers announced that the marina was critical to the survival of the Abaco Club, and would generate 1000 construction jobs. A ludicrous number, any way you look at it. They said that 6 moorings would have to be moved, but couldn’t say where to, or whose moorings they are.

    They also said that WSC (Water and Sewerage Corp.) had tested the water in LH and found it “unswimmable”, full of E. coli and fecal matter, and that their marina would actually clean up the harbour by installing a pump out station. Please see below a couple of quotes along these lines, and also WSC’s response to our queries about the tests. There’s a big difference between “unswimmable” and “undrinkable”.

    We now have bumper stickers, T shirts, and a video on Youtube, at
    I’m also attaching an aerial photo of the harbour, with marina superimposed. This IS to scale!

    Let’s hope they do a Disney, and leave us alone!

  8. makati1 on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 8:39 am 

    JuanP, maybe the NSA just needs more time to copy our comments before they allow them to be registered? Just kidding … or am I? I’m in the first grade as far as computers are concerned. I lost interest in tech when vacuum tubes went out of fashion. lol

  9. makati1 on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 8:46 am 

    sunweb, we old-timers have lived with the “conveniences” for so long, it is like going cold turkey on drugs to drop out and go “native”. I have been easing out of the techie church for the last 10 years and still use far too much. I even moved to the Philippines hoping that it would be easier if I was not bombarded by sales pitches and propaganda 24/7/365. Not so. It is pervasive here also.

    With any luck, we will be moving to the farm next year and tech will be much more difficult to access. I look forward to that experience. No malls, no large box stores, unreliable electric service, phone service, internet service. It will be wonderful! Like my childhood before all this techie bullshit was dreamed of.

  10. Davy on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 10:05 am 

    Sunweb, sounds like you and I are on the same frequency. Basically we are using BAU to exit BAU where we can. I am aware of and dwell on all those activities that are destructive to Nature. I personally feel we are on an energy and complexity gradient within a failing earth ecosystem and destabilizing climate. Nothing can stop this. We may be able to slow this down by changing our consumption and procreation patterns as a global civilization but not much because society can’t change much with collapsing. If we manage to destroy ourselves in a global war we would do even more possibly. Even with a massive die off the feedback loops have likely already been activated with a disturbed carbon and Earth life cycle. IOW we have created a new Epoch that will be an extinction epoch regardless of any action including a die off. It as in the Holocene is over.

    This is only part of the issue because we have the element of time and the value relative to the time we have left. If we have 5-10 years of a quality of life of sorts then we should live and plan within this life period. In that respect doomers and preppers have a leg up on the rest of the population. There are no guarantees of course. All the prepping in the world is of no use if fate is not positive. We can plan wrong and make poor choices even trying to make the right ones. It is the ascending of the ladder of awareness that is the biggest strength of a doomer and prepper. We have embraced reality and rejected denial. We can go forth from this awareness in conversion. Time and value take on new meaning. If you shrink your expectations you then realize a greater appreciation of less. You become aware of value instead of possessions and stimulations of enjoyment. This is not an either or it is rather a degree and duration thing. Possessions and stimulation take on new meaning and value when you compress your life expectancy and material wellbeing. You naturally make changes as one does who has come to an acceptance of a terminal illness or physical condition.

    The natural result of this conversion for me is dooming and prepping. Dooming and prepping for me now is as much academic as it is a lifestyle. I am a student and a teacher of doom and prep. It fascinates me and I find enjoyment in the practice of both. Dooming stimulates my intellectual curiosity. It is fascinating because it encompasses everything. It is generalized and specialized. Prepping is much the same. You need to be good with a lot of things and should specialize in something.

    There is then the spiritual side of all this. It is the acknowledgment of death and decline. It is the respect for Nature and her creation we live among. I practice relative sacrifice for Nature because she is my mother. I also practice relative sacrifice for my fellow man. I do not feel good living extravagantly. That is not to say I don’t on occasions because I also must respect friends and family. Relative sacrifice in this respect is participating in extravagance but not too much. It is also worth making a statement. Actions are contagious. If sacrifice can spread we may be able to lower pain and suffering and lengthen our envelope of collapse with its corresponding die off.

    Society and most people will never acknowledge collapse and a die off but they may acknowledge a period of decline and adjust accordingly. There are changes we can make now that will improve our shorten lives. There are actions we can do to mitigate pain and suffering as it comes to us. We can adapt to destructive change better. A vast majority of what is ahead must just be endured and we can face this with a proper attitude. We doom to stay focused mentally and we prep to physically prepare and adapt.

    This all starts by leaving denial or at least acknowledging the reality of collapse. This is where the disconnect is. Taking the step into acknowledging collapse is not made. It may be lip service but it is not actual acceptance. It is talk but it is not the walk. For the most part we have a society narrative of development through technology and innovation that will confront and solve the coming problems. This involves “HOPE”. Nothing wrong with hope if it is realistic but it is not realistic today among most people. This is not acceptance of inevitable collapse. This is a belief we can overcome and not an acceptance we cannot. It is a camouflaged denial of collapse.

    Finally it may be better that society is in denial because it is likely society can’t handle the truth in the respect that society will quickly fail in generalized loss of confidence and panic. In this respect doom and prep becomes and individual thing not meant for everyone because not everyone is capable of it. It is similar to those people who embrace extreme spirituality as gurus or monks. We doomers and preppers are the monasteries of collapse and it will be our actions that leave something to the next generation if only the actions of trying.

  11. Boat on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 10:46 am 


    “This all starts by leaving denial or at least acknowledging the reality of collapse. This is where the disconnect is. Taking the step into acknowledging collapse is not made. It may be lip service but it is not actual acceptance.”

    If the world suddenly decided that collapse was imminent your days of prepping would be over. Survival mode would quickly ensue. Is this what you want? It seems counter productive to hasten collapse through fear. Shouldn’t self preservation warrant the idea of prepping as long as possible?

  12. JGav on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 11:23 am 

    Hi all. “Prepping,” as referred to above, means different things to different people according to the means they have available to them. Financial, knowledge and skills, motivational, etc.

    There are no doubt ‘clumps’ of well-prepared, Phase 3? (it’s all relative of course); less well-prepared but on the right path (Phase 2); understanding the need to prepare but without the means (Phase 1) – in brief,a whole spectrum.

    It’s encouraging to see that most here are at least at Phase 1 and many look close to Phase 2. What Phase 3 “prepping” really requires I don’t pretend to know, Still being in what I’d call Phase 1.5, I don’t have a lot of lessons to give. Nevertheless, I find some relief in the lucidity I see in certain exchanges on this site. Thanks for that!

  13. Apneaman on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 12:30 pm 

    Boat, “It seems counter productive to hasten collapse through fear.”

    So what’s the alternative? Keep pretending and thus eliminate all chance of even the slightest preparations? I’m talking about society wide or community. The longer the leadership pretends and lies the more choice of the few choices remaining will be eliminated. Also, you are framing it like it’s fear for fear’s sake when that is not the case. If reality and the future happens to be fearful, than so be it. It is what it is. In the big picture the only choices left now are how are the humans going to manage what is coming. It’s unavoidable. This pretending by the masters and their puppets is a regular feature of collapse throughout the ages, because their power, wealth and status trumps all else. Pretty normal for humans. The pickle is that when civilizations reach their late stage is when they are least capable of handling complex predicaments. This is why there are no historical examples of societies pulling themselves back from the brink. It’s all unavoidable. It’s the overshoot loop happening on the global scale.

    Evolution Under The Maximum Power Principle

    Energy is a key aspect of overshoot because available energy is always limited by the energy required to utilize it.

    Organisms are required by the Second Law of thermodynamics to dissipate energy.“Power” is energy dissipation for a purpose and equals:
    forces x flows = work rate + entropy produced.

    Organisms evolved a bias to maximize fitness by maximizing power. With greater power, there is greater opportunity to allocate energy to reproduction and survival, and therefore, an organism that captures and utilizes more energy than another organism in a population will have a fitness advantage.”

    “Here is a synopsis of the behavioral loop described above:

    Step 1. Individuals and groups evolved a bias to maximize fitness by maximizing power, which requires over-reproduction and/or over-consumption of natural resources (overshoot), whenever systemic constraints allow it. Differential power generation and accumulation result in a hierarchical group structure.

    Step 2. Energy is always limited, so overshoot eventually leads to decreasing power available to the group, with lower-ranking members suffering first.

    Step 3. Diminishing power availability creates divisive subgroups within the original group. Low-rank members will form subgroups and coalitions to demand a greater share of power from higher-ranking individuals, who will resist by forming their own coalitions to maintain power.

    Step 4. Violent social strife eventually occurs among subgroups who demand a greater share of the remaining power.

    Step 5. The weakest subgroups (high or low rank) are either forced to disperse to a new territory, are killed, enslaved, or imprisoned.

    Step 6. Go back to step 1.

    The above loop was repeated countless thousands of times during the millions of years that we were evolving[9]. This behavior is inherent in the architecture of our minds — is entrained in our biological material — and will be repeated until we go extinct. Carrying capacity will decline[10] with each future iteration of the overshoot loop, and this will cause human numbers to decline until they reach levels not seen since the Pleistocene.”

    Anyone paying attention can easily see new subgroups starting to form and the tension and violence increasing as they lose access to energy and resources. It’s early stage for the violence, but it will pick up. It’s inevitable.

    “Step 5. The weakest subgroups (high or low rank) are either forced to disperse to a new territory, are killed, enslaved, or imprisoned.”

    “dispersed to a new territory” – Migrants

    “killed, enslaved, or imprisoned.” – Black Americans and other impoverished American minorities – most recently poor whites (new low rank). 2 million in prison with 1/3 of the prisons for profit corporate prisons. Prisoners work for slave wages doing a number of tasks for many American corporations. They get whites to kill themselves with drugs by first getting them hooked on Rx pain killers for minor injuries, many switch to cheaper heroin and become enslaved or OD. Plenty of suicides too.

    Trump is basically forming a new coalition with most of his supporters from the newer low ranking white subgroup. This is why other entrenched groups are afraid of him. Even if he wasn’t a clown they would still be attacking him. They would just find another reason besides his retard behavior. They are scared of his group of low status whites wanting some of that shrinking pie back. If you look for it you will see the same thing playing out in many other countries. Here We Go Loopty Loo……….

  14. JuanP on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 12:47 pm 

    Boat “If the world suddenly decided that collapse was imminent …”
    That will never happen. Most humans are like you, Boat, incapable of accepting the truth. That collapse is unavoidable has been obvious for decades. Some people, like Malthus, understood its inevitability centuries ago because it is a direct consequence of our evolutionary animal nature.

    We have been selected for millenia to become the destructive consuming breeders that we are. We all want to fuck! We all want more! How many men get a vasectomy? Less than 1%! How many humans have an unsustainable amount of biological offspring? The vast majority!

    As people like me stop having children and the stupid, insane, and ignorant keep having them each generation becomes more stupid, ignorant, and insane than the one before. This has been going on for many decades now, maybe even centuries. Humanity is devolving; we stopped evolving a long time ago. I understood as a child that my parents’ generation was more stupid than my grandparents’ one. And, I also understood that my generation was completely hopeless. That is one of the reasons I left my country. The younger generations are even more stupid, delusional, and insane.

    Unfortunately, this problem is global. Most people lack the humility, intelligence and education to understand how stupid and ignorant they are. This is a predicament and has, therefore, no solution.

  15. Davy on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 1:32 pm 

    Boat, read my last paragraph.

  16. Davy on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 1:43 pm 

    Phases of prep can overlap too for example phase 3 in spirit but phase 1 in means. A good attitude is the most important in my view. Honesty supersedes all the above. Some know prepping is a good idea and have the means but they honestly are not interested in it and accept the consequences as another example of a skewing of phases. Life is a gamble any way you look at it. Live for the day in a cavalier stupor or live to die another day as a realist. We make our bed ultimately alone and in the dark.

  17. Survival Acres on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 3:29 pm 

    If “renewables” were really fossil-fuel free, I’d listen more closely. Because they aren’t, and appear to forever be directly tied to fossil fuels and other non-replaceable resources, I’m not getting too excited about all their hype and propaganda as a tool to “save” our civilization. I also think Jevons Paradox will continue to rule the day (world) for every so-called “efficiency” we appear to gain. And finally, advocating this non-stop insanity of energy consumption and endless growth versus degrowth is just plain stupid.

  18. Sissyfuss on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 3:50 pm 

    Davy, how close were you to that 140 heat index reading? It was on the border of Missouri and Arkansas and the next step is a wet bulb ass-kicker. Keep cool, brother.

  19. GregT on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 4:26 pm 

    140ºF? Holy crap! That’s the temperature that I use when I make smoked salmon.

  20. Davy on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 5:13 pm 

    Sis, that 140 heat index must have been closer to OK. Here in MO Ozarks the worst we got was a 110 index. That still kicked my ass but it is manageable. This week has been reasonable with temps in upper 80’s with popup t-storms daily. Humidity is horrible. I am really noticing a different climate lately. Maybe I am just more aware of abrupt climate change and watching my weather closer.

  21. onlooker on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 6:09 pm 

    Great comments. Globalization will now work in reverse. Mankind is no longer controlling its fate. We propelled our species deep into overshoot. The forces of correction are irresistible at this point. Our huge population and our consuming patterns simply cannot be supported for much longer by our host planet. The sooner mankind accepts this inescapable consequence the better and vice versa

  22. JuanP on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 6:22 pm 

    Ap “Boat, “It seems counter productive to hasten collapse through fear.”

    Thanks, Ap, for reposting that. I skip most of Boat’s comments, or I read only their first line, and I had missed that. It deserves an answer that may help others since, unfortunately, Boat has proven he wants no help and can, therefore, not be helped.

    First, hastening collapse would make it easier to deal with in the long run and would also diminish the environmental destruction we cause in the meantime. It is the courageous choice to do. To deny and delay is the cowardly choice.

    Second, telling the truth is not about spreading fear; it is about sharing one’s knowledge and understanding. Some will feel fear when they read the truth because the truth is pretty scary. This fear is a good thing and can be used as a positive force to change your life.

    Preppers don’t prep because they are afraid; preppers prep because it is the smart thing to do. If you are well prepared and busy preparing, you don’t have much time for worry and fear. Buy a food plant and grow it under a led, in a balcony, or a garden, first, and then come back here and tell me how it felt to eat your first harvest. Prepping is not about fear, it is about living your life to the fullest and conquering your fears. And, telling others to do it is empowering them and doing them a favor. Start prepping today and tell others to do it and you will lose your fear!

  23. JuanP on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 6:31 pm 

    “It is the courageous choice to do”
    Before I am accused of being an illiterate, ignorant, dirty migrant by the multiple personality disorder fool, I want to clarify that I meant to say “choice to make”, but I changed the phrase from “thing to do” in my mind as I typed, and I missed changing the do to make because I was already thinking about the next sentence. 😉

  24. JuanP on Fri, 29th Jul 2016 6:42 pm 

    Just imagine how much better and easier it would be to stop global population growth today by reducing unwanted pregnancies, which is all it would take, rather than increasing deaths by violence, starvation, and preventable diseases in the future, which is what we are choosing. Unfortunately, humanity, just like Boat, is making all the wrong choices. Its inevitable; we aren’t smart enough as a species.

  25. sunweb on Sat, 30th Jul 2016 7:24 am 

    Davy – would love to connect if possible.
    dragnfly (no o) at arvig (dot) net

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