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Five Things You Should Know About Collapse

General Ideas


The Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca was perhaps the first in history to identify and discuss collapse and to note that “the way to ruin is rapid.” From Seneca’s idea, Ugo Bardi coined the term “Seneca Effect” to describe all cases where things go bad fast and used the modern science of complex system to understand why and how collapses occur. Above: the Egyptian pyramid of Meidum, perhaps the first large edifice in history to experience collapse. 

1. Collapse is rapid. As already noted some 2,000 years ago by the Roman philosopher Seneca, when things start going bad, they go bad fast. It takes a lot of time to put together a building, a company, a government, a whole society, a piece of machinery. And it takes very little time for the whole structure to unravel at the seam. Think of the collapse of a house of cards, or that of the twin towers after the 9/11 attacks, or even of apparently slow collapses such as that of the Roman Empire. Collapses are likely to take you by surprise.

2. Collapse is not a bug, it is a feature of the universe. Collapses occur all the time, in all fields, everywhere. Over your lifetime, you are likely to experience at least a few relatively large collapses: natural phenomena such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or floods – major financial collapses – such as the one that took place in 2008 – and you may also see wars and social violence. And you may well see small-scale personal disasters, such as losing your job or divorcing. Nobody at school taught you how to deal with collapses, but you’d better learn at least something of the “science of collapse”.

3. No collapse is ever completely unexpected. The science of collapse tells us that collapses can never be exactly predicted, but that doesn’t mean you should be unprepared for them. You may not know when an earthquake will strike but, if you live in a seismic zone, you have no justification for not take precautions against one – such as having emergency tools and provisions. The same holds for defending yourself and your family against thieves, robbers, and all sorts of bad people. And make plans for political unrest or financial troubles. You cannot avoid some collapses, but you can surely be prepared for them.

4. Resisting collapses is usually a bad idea. Collapse is the way the universe uses to get rid of the old to make space for the new. Resisting collapse means to strive to keep something old alive when it could be a better idea to let it rest in peace. And, if you succeed for a while, you are likely to create an even worse collapse – it is typical. The Science of collapse tells us that the main reason for the steep “Seneca Collapse” is the attempt to stave it off. So, let nature follow its course and know that there some problems may be unsolvable but can be surely worsened.

5. Collapse may not be a problem but an opportunity. Collapse is nothing but a “tipping point” from one condition to another. And what looks to you like a collapse may be nothing worse than a passage to a new condition which could be better than the old. So, if you lose your job, that may give you the opportunity to seek a better one. And if your company goes belly up, you may start another one without making the same mistakes you did with the first. Even disasters such as earthquakes or floods may be an opportunity to understand what’s your role in life, as well as give you a chance to help your family and your neighbors. The Stoic philosophers (and Seneca was one) understood this point and told us how to maintain one’s balance and happiness even in the midst of difficulties.

Cassandra’s legacy by Ugo Bardi

13 Comments on "Five Things You Should Know About Collapse"

  1. Makati1 on Tue, 15th May 2018 5:09 pm 

    FYI: So some here do not party falsely, I want you to know that I am going to the land of collapse, the Us, to take care of some family business. I will be gone about three weeks. I shall return. LOL

  2. Davy on Tue, 15th May 2018 6:59 pm 

    well fyi, if it was like last time you went stateside then we won’t hear from you for the whole time you are away. NICE!!

    3rd world is afraid he will be picked up by the gestapo or something so he goes LOW PRO.

  3. Davy on Tue, 15th May 2018 7:15 pm 

    I would disagree that collapse has to be rapid. Collapse is generally rapid but in our case today globally we may see multiple collapse scenarios play out at different times. As long as the center holds we may not see a total collapse for a period of time. I have no idea that period. I also agree it could all fall apart quickly. My point is it does not have to collapse all at once and rapidly. We are in a different paradigm from previous periods but only to a point. Collapse is still relevant today. In fact we have a very brittle resilience that comes from a horrible sustainability arrangement that is part of a system that is very powerful and robust. We are an order of magnitude into overpopulation per our pre-fossil fuel history. This means many locations where over population is bad they are greatly at risk. Those areas that rely on high consumption to support less people are equally at risk. Those areas that are located in areas with poor climate, food sustainability, and or water availability are likewise at risk. Then we also have the social risk of the wrong people being in close proximity. There are plenty of collapse variables but it is a big and powerful global world which is hard to compare to other periods in human history.

  4. MASTERMIND on Tue, 15th May 2018 7:26 pm 


    Collapse will be fast and it will happen at the speed of technology. And likely when the oil shortages hit the world economy in a few years. The soviet union collapsed in two years time from an oil shortage. The trigger will likely be an electronic run on the banks..

  5. Davy on Tue, 15th May 2018 7:36 pm 

    “The soviet union collapsed in two years time from an oil shortage.”

    USSR collapse resulted in multiple different states that were not materially destroyed. Try again

  6. bronzetti on Tue, 15th May 2018 7:56 pm 

    You are an illogical person hellbent on preaching doom. Get over your infatuation with peak oil. Its a farce created by you and your likes.

  7. Boat on Tue, 15th May 2018 8:34 pm 


    I agree completely. Pretty complex when looking at an entire globe. It may be the extream rich and extreme poor do the best. Or my favorite, high tech places with the most resources left.
    Nuke or not to nuke will play a role. Trade or isolate by country, may play a role.
    I usually don’t speculate to much because chances are the worst is decades after death. But nukes could happen tomorrow, but then all of human history has had to deal with uncertainty.

  8. MASTERMIND on Tue, 15th May 2018 8:35 pm 


    Yes, but soviet union was just one region. This oil shortage will be global and will collapse the entire world economy. this is what the limits to growth study, German military study, NASA study, and Korwitz study, all concluded.

  9. Sissyfuss on Tue, 15th May 2018 9:26 pm 

    Bronzeage, this site is called Peak Oil. We have people who stand on either side of the issue. We have no illusion of your position on the subject. You might be more comfortable on a site called Shitload of Oil where your type could roam free.

  10. Boat on Tue, 15th May 2018 9:38 pm 


    Canada has so much oil they are in the Baltic States pissing off Putin.

  11. Anonymouse1 on Wed, 16th May 2018 12:34 am 

    Look at that exceptionalturd. An innumerate, illiterate bible-thumping retard agrees with you. Like you, he doesn’t have a clue what is going on, but he likes the way it all sounds. You know its all very ‘complex’ and all that. Of course, boatietard finds his remote control equally ‘complex’ and baffling as well, so take his drooling over your imagained brilliance for whatever that is worth.

  12. Kat C on Wed, 16th May 2018 4:25 am 

    Get a game of Jenga and play it over and over. See if there is any point at which it does not collapse and see if it ever collapses slowly and gradually. We live in a fragile tower and while we can’t predict which block will cause collapse, we can predict that if you remove enough collapse will happen. Almost happened in 2008. NOTHING WAS FIXED just shored up. So it will happen again and more spectacularly.

  13. markisha on Wed, 16th May 2018 4:39 am 

    This site is great , I think I can say that for thousands of people who read it. Yes it was wrong many times but it is funny how people still dont understand. Peak Oil is a fact like it or not.

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