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Survive Collapse: Some Paradoxes

Survive Collapse: Some Paradoxes thumbnail

If you enjoy paradoxes, then here are a few you might like. I’m referring to the topic of “post-Collapse survival,” with specific reference to the imminent decline in fossil fuels. But let us look at these events as two phases: (a) before complete anarchy sets in and (b) after complete anarchy sets in. I call these two phases the ANTEDILUVIAN (AD) and the POSTDILUVIAN (PD) – as in, ”Après moi, le déluge.” (See also my book, Tumbling Tide, chapter 11, ”Post-Peak Economics,” in which I talk about a ”Phase A” and a ”Phase B,” although those Phases are somewhat on a different subject — economics, not personal survival as such.) There are some really stunning paradoxes here, actually multiple paradoxes. The figures below are all ”ball-park,” by the way, so don’t worry about specific numbers, though I can toss in one caveat right away – that the cost to buy and to maintain a house in the UK is about five times the cost to do so in the US or Canada.

DURING THE ANTEDILUVIAN, it would make sense to start becoming self-sufficient by getting a nice house in a rural area, with maybe 3 or 4 hectares of land (or more) for farming and firewood. The catch is that you can’t buy a livable house anywhere for less than $100,000 – or maybe $60,000 if you’re a skilled renovator. The land will set you back by another few thousand dollars. Maintenance of a house will cost you about $10,000 a year — and that’s assuming you have no mortgage. You’d want to be living in a town that isn’t too big (an increasingly overcrowded and expensive death trap) or too small (too isolated from gas stations, shops, hospitals, police stations, etc.). So unless you’re wealthy, or you’ve inherited a livable place, or you bought something a long time ago when prices were low, or you have a half-dozen family members to join you and help with all the work, you may have problems with a plan of that sort.

Even if you could find a good house now for less than $60,000, you’d then run into what real-estate agents call “location, location, location.” You don’t want to be living in an area that’s overrun by low-lifes, people who have ”an uneasy relationship with the law,” as they say. You’ll know you made a bad decision when your neighbor starts cutting down your trees, and tells you that he has a right to do so because trees are made by God.
And if you’re single, it probably makes no sense to go out now and buy ANY kind of house, especially if you’re getting older. A good apartment would be much more practical, and far cheaper – the half-million dollars or more that you’d have to put into a house, over the course of a lifetime, could just as easily get you quite a marvelous apartment, and leave you with plenty of extra cash for whatever else your heart desired. In any case, a good apartment probably means one owned by a corporation or a branch of government, not by a private landlord – a large proportion of private landlords are psychopaths (devoid of any sense of right or wrong). But you’d still be taking a risk. What if the AD suddenly slipped into the PD? (Matt Simmons and others have suggested that the end of oil won’t be as gentle a slope as most people believe.) Even the best apartment is utterly unlivable when the electricity fails and the heating fuel isn’t delivered. With no food, no water, no bathroom, and no elevator, an apartment building is utterly uninhabitable.
DURING THE POSTDILUVIAN, on the other hand, there will be no money, so you won’t be able to buy a house, and there will be no fossil fuels to heat it, or to produce electricity. (And ”alternative energy” depends on substances that are called ”rare earths” for a very good reason.) There won’t even be fossil fuels to supply you with building materials. So you’ll have to build a log cabin, or something like that. Not a bad idea, assuming you’re physically fit — if you’re over about 30 or 40, forget it, unless you’ve been doing hard manual labor all your life. Also, any vegetables you tried to grow would get stolen, so don’t waste your time working in a garden. If you want to eat, you’ll have to rely on hunting and fishing and collecting berries — all the activities that are called foraging. To do that, you’d need to be very far from any settled community, because foraging requires an extremely large amount of land per family. You would need a gun, and the ability to use it, and a huge supply of ammunition — but if you’re like most people you think gun owners are far worse than communists, atheists, or euchre-players, so you’ve probably done absolutely no planning in that department. As with the AD phase, you would still need land – in fact, a great deal of it. But buying an enormous chunk of wilderness property would be ridiculous, since most people in such areas simply assume that most of the land is public property — even if it isn’t. Also consider the fact that a great deal of wilderness property legally belongs to native people, and you might not be welcome there.
The biggest paradox of all is in deciding whether to focus on AD or on PD. Since the plans for each are utterly different from each other, they can’t be combined. Well, yes, you could try to have a modern house AND a log cabin, but that would still leave you in the middle of a contradiction, and they’d probably have to be in completely different areas. If you knew very well that you were going to die just at the crossing of the AD and the PD, you could probably solve the paradox, but that sort of fine-tuning seems unlikely.
Peter Goodchild
Author of Tumbling Tide: Population, Petroleum, and Systemic Collapse (London, Ontario: Insomniac Press, 2014)

16 Comments on "Survive Collapse: Some Paradoxes"

  1. dave thompson on Wed, 22nd Apr 2015 7:53 am 

    The predicament.

  2. Davy on Wed, 22nd Apr 2015 8:32 am 

    It is an issues of a collapse that will not be easily predictable and that is the long or short severe or manageable. Locations will be critical because we know now which areas are not resilient or sustainable. What we don’t know even for the resilient and sustainable is where, when, and how. It will not matter where you are if the worst hits.

    There is the prep period, the collapse period, and the post collapse period. During the prep period you find a proper location and you prep as best you can. If you can’t move or the current location appears resilient and sustainable then stay there. Moving is expensive and time consuming. There is no guarantee of success when one moves because in most cases you just don’t know what you are getting into.

    One good gauge is the degree of community, the community’s stability potential in crisis, and the sustainability of that community with food, water, and shelter. You will need BAU to prep in most cases. The prep phase is critical for the next phase. When that undefinable collapse begins it will be your preparations that allow choices and decisions. If you are prepared in some way shape or form the likelihood of good decisions and choices is greatly increased. Hopefully you are prepped for a move or you are mentally prepared for a last stand. This is the short term of collapse.

    There may or may not be stability and security. There is no way to judge where a mad max situation will strike or just an area in crisis with people working together. We can determine areas that can’t hold together for the slightest of crisis. Even the best prepared areas are not immune from the worst.

    The post collapses phase is about long term sustainability and resilience. It is about small communities that can draw their vital support from the land and natural renewables. It will be about locations that can adapt to a collapse with salvage and hybrid use of BAU resources if the collapse is a long emergency. Long or short collapse will determine how much of BAU’s resources can be salvaged and what systems and networks can be used in a hybrid way to produce the vital needs of a community.

    Will a town’s water system be maintainable post collapse? Maybe if the collapse is shallow enough. The long term preparations are all about food, water, and shelter. Will there be some kind of energy source to heat? Will the shelters be able to be cooled by proper ventilation? I see many new homes that were built for A/C and not natural ventilation. Food and water is a no brainer. Will Production AG be able to be still utilized in some areas in a shallow collapse? If a collapse is strong enough production AG will be almost impossible to use.

    The longer term survivability of an area will be based upon permaculture potential of the old ways with animal and human power along with soil and water resources. Maybe an urban area will have potential for trade in a shallow collapse like rail, port, and survivable bridges. There are just so many potentials but one things is certain prepping is a must and location is vital. Prepping in a poor location is a waste.

    The other issues in mental preparations of attitudes and lifestyles. Begin now getting ready for excess deaths over births for the foreseeable future. Start changing your expectations and your comfort levels to less with even less in the future. Now is the time to physically and mentally prepare.

  3. ghung on Wed, 22nd Apr 2015 8:43 am 

    Paints with a broad brush, eh? Not everyone has been slow on the uptake over the last 20 years. “… it would make sense to start becoming self-sufficient by getting a nice house in a rural area…”.

    Start? Now? WTF have people been paying attention to?

  4. paulo1 on Wed, 22nd Apr 2015 9:05 am 

    re: “Maintenance of a house will cost you about $10,000 a year”

    What, you put a new roof on and redo the plumbing every year? This guy is an effing goof.

  5. Makati1 on Wed, 22nd Apr 2015 10:17 am 

    Paulo… Try an average of ~5% of it’s value every year. Unless you live in a place with no property taxes, don’t want to insure it, or replace appliances or keep it painted or have a driveway and lawn to maintain or any other typical home maintenance.

    Gas for the lawn mower. Blades. Snow shovel replacement, or worse, a snow-blower and fuel. Bug killer. Well pump replacement. Light bulbs. Carpet cleaning/replacement. Furnace cleaning. Chimney cleaning. Etc. And that assumes that you can do all of the repairs yourself. Do the math for your own situation if you do not believe me.

    I didn’t believe it either, until I sat down and tracked it for a few years. I’ve owned homes valued from $20K (1974) to $250+K (2002) and it works out to about the same 5%/year average. PLUS any mortgage payment.

  6. paulo1 on Wed, 22nd Apr 2015 2:49 pm 

    Insurance has gotten hefty, Mak….no doubt about it. For us….house value approx $350,000.00 (riverfront….house is average size), but taxes are $700/yr and house insurance is $900. Even if you rent, the tenant pays for taxes imbedded in the rent amount and one should have renters insurance. As for the rest I always do all maint., and there is no painting etc as the house is sided with cedar shingles. If I used your number I would be paying $17,500/yr. If I generously added up everything we do spend it might be $2500/yr.

    I also do all building and maint being a carpenter, etc. I submit homeowners should be prepared to do for themselves unless they have the funds to hire out.

    We do live in the boonies without too much nanny state oversight. Best move we ever made.

    You might be interested in this article a buddy just sent me about Canada’s mortgage mess.

  7. ffkling on Wed, 22nd Apr 2015 3:41 pm 

    As one who is 50+ and single, but not really thanks to my loving covey of adopted pets, I have no desire to attempt to meek out a living. Further, spiritually I could not live in a world where we continue raping and murdering Mother Earth. How would I support my four legged family members? No, I have accumulated a large quantity of narcotics for me and the gang when it’s time.

    ‘Beware the beast Man, for he cometh from hell as Lucifer’s spawn. Alone among God’s primates, he kills for sport, and lust, and greed. Without conscience, he wrecks devastation upon the good and bountiful Mother Earth. Shun him: If he is permitted to breed in great numbers, he will make a desert of his home and yours. Look upon man, for he is death, the Great Destroyer of worlds. ~~29th Scroll, 6th Verse~~

  8. Perk Earl on Wed, 22nd Apr 2015 5:57 pm 

    “If he is permitted to breed in great numbers, he will make a desert of his home and yours.”

    That’s interesting ffkling, because desertification keeps taking more land every year. Sometimes it’s as simple as too many grazing livestock chewing up the natural grasses, leaving the soil exposed to sunlight and evaporation leading to soil degradation and from there turning into desert. But of course there are many other factors including deforestation, over tilling, droughts due in part to AGW, diversion of water, damning, but whatever the reason it’s basis recently has been predominantly human activity. E.g. The Gobi desert moves closer to Beijing every year, and the Amazon is being transitioned from rainforest to savanna.

  9. steve on Wed, 22nd Apr 2015 6:41 pm 

    What a waste of time reading this crappy article! First of all a collapse like the author is talking about…no one will live….nuclear power plants will fail and war will probably kill off 99 percent of the population.

    “Maintenance of a house will cost you about $10,000 a year” This shows this douche bags ignorance…yes I know rich people that spend this much but they are having everyone do the work for them! What a joke!! Do people make money writing this junk…and to think I have been doing labor for most of my life!!!

  10. Makati1 on Wed, 22nd Apr 2015 6:59 pm 

    paulo, real estate taxes in PA: “The median property tax in Pennsylvania is $2,223.00 per year for a home worth the median value of $164,700.00. Counties in Pennsylvania collect an average of 1.35% of a property’s assesed fair market value as property tax per year.”

    That would be a tax of ~ $4,700/yr. for a $350K home. But some areas are much higher.

    As for maintenance, how long does cedar last without any? Certainly not the life of the house or your lifetime. I know climate makes a difference, but it is not forever. And in fire country…

    If your annual cost is less than the 5% consider yourself lucky, but I bet it averages higher, over the life of the mortgage, than you think.

  11. Apneaman on Wed, 22nd Apr 2015 7:56 pm 

    Siberia’s tug of war over Lake Baikal’s water
    Villagers struggle to cope as world’s largest freshwater lake drops to its lowest level in 60 years.

    “The water level of Lake Baikal – the world’s deepest and oldest freshwater lake and a UNESCO world heritage site – has reached its lowest point in 60 years, plummeting below the minimum level designated by the government as critical.”

  12. Apneaman on Wed, 22nd Apr 2015 8:00 pm 

    Sydney weather: waves break records as erosion sees Narrabeen retreat 25 metres during storm

  13. ffkling on Wed, 22nd Apr 2015 8:02 pm 

    McHenry county, IL is a Chicago exurban community with a local government and police force so corrupt residents are more fearful of the sheriffs department than the crooks. Property taxes on a home valued at $200,000 are almost $10,000 annually. ALL county elected positions are controlled by the RepubliCONS. You know, the party of low taxes and good government- truly pathetic.

  14. Plantagenet on Wed, 22nd Apr 2015 8:05 pm 


    The guy who wrote this article advises that when you are carefully picking out the ideal place to live in after society collapses, be sure to pick a place that ISN”T TOO FAR FROM A GAS STATION.

    Yup—thats what he said.

    And his advice for what to do after the collapse is even more bizarre.

    This is one of those articles you should read, laugh, and then discard.

  15. Apneaman on Wed, 22nd Apr 2015 8:40 pm 

    After Record Drought, Dengue Fever Is Now Sweeping Across Sao Paulo

  16. gdubya on Fri, 24th Apr 2015 2:20 pm 

    Mr planet, methinks you missed the point.

    A remote community with good land & defenses is preferred when everything falls apart.

    Unfortunately most people are unwilling to sit in the woods for decades waiting; my neighbours 4 -driveways- down figured all this out in 1970 and have had a pleasant low impact life all that time. In today’s world a job, a car and access to services have many advantages.

    Perhaps you are leading a pure life living in caribou skins with no electricity. UCongratulations.

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