Friday, December 25, 2009

Looking for Ideas to Expand the Blog

I'm really looking for ideas to improve the blog, and also to market it to more people. At the moment, the extent of raising awareness of the blog is limited to putting links to new blog posts on Facebook. And I'm not happy with that, a lot of the "friends" I have on Facebook are people I went to high school with. Therefore, much of the posts I read from others are just naval-gazing (for example, spouting pointless details of their day, putting pictures of their families, or their progress in Farmville or something like that). Don't get me wrong, I'm not above this occasionally, I don't mean to criticize it, I just wish I had more "friends" who were interested in the kind of stuff that I'm writing about.

More Predictions for 2010 (and the years to come)

I, myself, am allergic to making predictions. Not just out of the fear of being proven incorrect, but also because I don't know nearly enough about the way this world works to feel anywhere near confident in making any kinds of predictions, on any subject, especially not a worsening society being brought down by a series of factors (economics, energy depletion, etc.) that could potentially lead to the end of industrialized civilization. By the way, people are as asleep as ever. It is Christmas day, I am at my sister's, and my other sister (who is visiting with her financee from Connecticut) saw a book I was reading, "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It". She opened her mouth in disbelief and exclaimed, "Oh, come on!" As I don't make predictions, I also can't be fully confident in my beliefs about our state of affairs, but I really fail to see why reading this kind of book could meet with such disbelief. Is it so unfathomable that things could really go to shit in any society, even ours?

Anyway, I am digressing again; it's an unfortunate habit I've acquired in the course of writing these long blogs, and I am unlikely to give it up. I just hope that you find it interesting enough to read while I'm in the process of writing what I had intended to write in the first place.

I read another website that made several predictions about this upcoming year, as part of a sample of a quarterly publication called the Trends Journal. It seems to be geared to people interested in finance, but it looks like something many more of us can understand, especially this portion. It is predicted that things will continue to collapse, in spite of the heroic efforts that governments around the world have taken to prop up our financial institutions, and that seems like a no-brainer to me. On the other hand, there are some surprising predictions that, while I can't see them happening in the short-term, could definitely be possible as more and more of us realize that the "good times" are not coming back.

One element is the possibility of increased acts of terrorism as more people are becoming alienated at what has happened to them and their families as a result of our incursions into Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Pakistan. Some of the attacks can well take place from unexpected sources, like the gunman at Fort Hood. But as economic problems and the chances of there being battles over dwindling resources increase, Al-qaeda training camps will be the least of our problems.

Another prediction I can emphasize on, and agree with, is survivalism becoming mainstream. It wouldn't be too long ago that my reaction to someone reading a book like the one I am would be similar to my sister's, but I don't feel that way anymore. My personal circumstances are not worsening (as of this writing) but they're not really getting better either, and I think they would be if times were normal. Along with becoming enlightened of the chances of our demise, my personal experiences have really helped me understand the ability to prepare and acquire new skills for a new economy, and hopefully more people will take on this trend.

Our government has repeatedly justified their bailouts of banks and other financial institutions on the grounds that they are "too big to fail", and while looking at America as a whole, the writer(s) have determined that a lot of America is "too big". Our homes, our vehicles, our debt loads, our state governments, our military, it is all "too big". Like the Trends Journal, I also feel that being "too big" (in other words, living to excess) will become decidedly uncool in the years ahead.

Another trend predicted, and one that I can see on the horizon already, is illegal immigrants and American citizens jostling and competing for the scraps of what little is out there in terms of hard labor. What always bothered me about illegal immigration is the support that it received from people who really should have known better. Some time ago, I was an activist for primarily leftist causes, and I came across great people who were very passionate about many issues, among them being standing up for immigrants, be they legal or not. I understood where they were coming from, but I also couldn't help but see the contradictions playing out amongst these people; namely, claiming to be pro-labor and union but also pro-illegal immigrant. As more illegals joined the work force, they had the effect that any new clump of labor would, in that they depress wages for everybody. They also serve as an effective threat for business owners to use against their employees, as I've learned from people telling me their experiences. So, a fair amount of protest against illegals (both past, present and future) may be based in racism and intolerance, but much of it is also based on economic realities.

A backlash against China is also predicted in the form of "Not Made in China" movements and a press for more products to be made closer to home. While I think this will happen eventually, I think it will be more due to the expense of oil making globalization increasingly unfeasible, rather than any popular backlash. Many of us simply cannot make the connections between outsourcing our manufacturing to China and the dire economic straits of the working class; besides, we enjoy the cheap Chinese products too much. Additionally, we may not have the know-how necessary to build products, even if we gain the desire.

Lastly, a prediction that I really hope happens (not sure if it will) will be the demise of TV/cable due to the Internet Revolution, similar to what happened with newspapers. I think the two (TV and papers) are very different, mainly that the big liability of papers was not being able to report breaking news in an adequate fashion (due to their very structure, it could take up to a day or more for a story to "break" in a paper if that's the reader's main source of information), whereas TV news is much more immediate (about equal to the Internet in terms of breaking a story). Another big difference, and one that will hopefully hurt television, is its true, utter lack of reporting stories that have any value for the majority of the populace. Since most TV news outlets are corporate-owned, and also depend on the advertising dollars of other corporate entities, they specialize in harmless and meaningless fluff that is the mental equivalent of junk food. While this has the edge over the Internet, in that it appeals to morons, the Internet has the advantage of providing many diverse sources of information that will appeal to any person who has the capability and the willingness to learn (and I'm willing to bet that anyone with those traits is likely to make much more money than the morons who exclusively depend on television for what passes as "news" on those outlets).

So, there you are, with more predictions. While I'm not comfortable with asserting that these will come true in 2010 particularly, I am pretty confident that they will happen sometime in the near-future, at least in the next decade for certain. By the way, Merry Christmas. I think that we are at the peak of enjoying our fairly prosperous lifestyles, so we might as well enjoy them to the extent that we can. Eventually, many of us will see a fall in these lifestyles, and they might be quite drastic. Furthermore, it won't be optional.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Predictions for 2010 (And Beyond)

I'm pretty sure that I've mentioned this on the blog previously, but I'll mention it again anyway. One of the better books I've read in recent years, and which is a great companion piece for any "doomer" (someone who believes in peak oil and its economic ramifications) is "Reinventing Collapse" by Dmitry Orlov. An emigre from Soviet Russia, Orlov had the unique perspective of witnessing collapse in that other superpower, the USSR, and strongly feels that the U.S. shares many of the same attributes that led to collapse in the USSR. It's a very informative, humorous, and easy-to-breeze through little tome (around 160 pages, but totally engrossing).

Mr. Orlov has made predictions on the near-future, or more closely, the next decade, in this blog post, which go into further detail on what he had already expounded on in his book. More specifically, the woes of states and municipalities will grow steadily worse in terms of money, and to make up for steadily dipping tax revenues, the authorities will begin to charge outrageous fees for things such as licenses. States will raise and raise taxes, driving more economic transactions into the "black market". Any paper assets will largely lose their value, turning our economy into one based on bartering.

The whole article (which is brief) is worth reading. What I found striking (and this is something he touched on in his book as well) was his assertion that the U.S. will not have the resources to repatriate our troops from around the world when the shit hits the fan. While it's plausible, I think things would have to be really fucked up in order for that to be a possibility. As much as us Americans are willing to take it up the collective ass from the powers that be on a constant basis, I feel that if there were to be a final straw, our troops being stranded overseas would be it.

By the way, this is a presentation from Orlov called "Closing the Collapse Gap: The USSR was Better Prepared for Collapse than the U.S.", which is basically a shorter version of his book, in case you don't have the time or money to read it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Video of How Dependent we are on Oil for our Food

This clip is from a new documentary called "Collapse", which I believe centers around a series of interviews with a man named Michael Ruppert, who published a newsletter called "From the Wilderness" which delved into political coverups, government involvement in drug trafficking, etc. He is also a proponent of Peak Oil. Anyway, this clip (less than 2 minutes) has Ruppert detailing the processes of food production and manufacturing, and how virtually every process in that line is contingent upon oil. It's a very sobering look at how dependent we are on factory farming and the Interstate highway system for how we tend to eat (either going to the supermarket or restaurants).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Young people, economic contraction, and intergenerational "warfare"

In my last blog post, "Surviving Peak Oil on a Budget", I linked to an article in passing about a young, recent college graduate, who graduated "magna cum laude" (top of her class), from George Washington University, who applied to 60 businesses without gaining employment. It was to reflect how bad things were getting out there, and was a kind of "Exhibit A" or "B" or "C" as to why you should educate yourself on the facets of this new economic reality that we're living in, and try to adopt a new paradigm (or, to put it simply, a "plan B") rather than cling to the old one and hope for the best, even while it's becoming more and more obvious that things are taking a big turn for the worst every day.

Now that I've taken the smile off your face, let me continue. Anyway, while I did mention the article in passing, I found the article (upon a 2nd reading) to be of enough substance to merit a blog entry of its own. Between articles on the dire outlook for gainful employment among our young college graduates (including yours truly), and reading forums and message boards, stories like Melissa Meyer's are becoming a dime a dozen. People went to college in droves over this past decade (and got in debt, sometimes financial ruin, thanks to the easy loans provided by our government, but that's a whole other can o'worms for another blog entry), with high expectations that a well-paying job would await them soon after graduation. Between the rapid outsourcing of many white-collar jobs and the (now) clear widespread error that there could be close to enough office jobs for a massive flow of college grads (good economy or not), these expectations have been dashed in a big way. While college enrollment is currently surging, it is my prediction that as it becomes clearer and clearer to many that the good times are gone and never to return, it will also become clear that the value of a college degree has become wildly inflated. When a halfway smart person calculates the future value of a degree (in other words, what the degree will give them in wages and benefits vs. the perceived value of a degree based on tuition, interest, and all the other visible and invisible costs of a degree) and determines that it simply is not worth the investment, the college system (for lack of a better term, forgive me, I'm sleep-deprived) as we know it will collapse. In this, I am not even considering the earth-shaking event I have blogged about many times known as Peak Oil (PO) and its impact on the college system.

So, as we can already tell based on present stories that we are reading about, economic reality does not care if you graduated "magna cum laude" from GWU, or graduated with a 2.0 GPA from Bumfuck U., your circumstances probably will not be that different. But I have talked about this before, albeit not to this length, I believe. What I have not talked about, and what I found interesting towards the end of this article, and what it strongly hinted at as a glimpse into many households, is the possibility of intergenerational conflict. I don't mean literal battles between our elders and our fellow whipper-snappers, in which the former try to beat the latter unruly mobs off with their canes and walkers. I am talking about something much more intricate, and that shows itself in a family like Melissa Meyer's. In the near-future, I believe that with our steady economic contraction, the dream of the average twentysomething to leave home and pull up roots of his or her own will become steadily more difficult to do. Obviously, if well-paying employment becomes scarce and harder to obtain, it'll be harder to buy a home or rent an apartment. So, it's quite possible that multigenerational living will become more common than it has been. It actually was quite common in the U.S. until the post World War II period. (From anacedotal knowledge, I believe it's actually common in most other parts of the world, or at least, living home with the folks doesn't carry the stigma it does here in the States).

Anyway, I'm digressing, big-time. I feel that as more and more children move back home due to the staggering costs of living, or never leave home at all, tensions will run more rampant among the old and the younger of the households. Older people will feel a resentment towards their children for dashing their own dreams of retirement, and sharing an "empty nest" without their kids. They will be financially pulling the load for what they perceive to be their useless brethren, and will not respect them while wondering, "why couldn't they achieve the dream like we did?", while not realizing that they are living in a time warp and in that the world they are living in is one in which traditional notions of economic growth will no longer be possible.

In turn, younger people will resent their parents for this reason, along with a heavy amount of self-loathing that their standard of living is much, much lower than their parent's was. They will spend a long time blaming themselves, as well as each other, while it's really neither of their faults.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Preparing for Peak Oil on a Budget

Since I found out about Peak Oil, and its implications for virtually every facet of our lives, around a year and a half ago, I have been wondering how to prepare. After traversing many message boards and reading the accounts and experiences of people who have solar panels installed on their homes, own generators, have investments in gold and other metals, etc., it made me very discouraged because with my limited resources, what could I possibly do to prepare?

Than I found this article on LATOC from a former U.S. Army Ranger that makes some very sensible, and very affordable, points on how to face life after collapse. One of his most important points is that most of the preprepation for peak oil will be done mentally. It won't be like preparing for a weather event, like a hurricane, in which you buy a few essentials for a temporary crisis. Preparing for peak oil will be akin to preparing for a permanent change in the state of life in which you live, and in which you will have to get by with less, possibly much less.

He then goes on to give 7 things in which to prepare, and goes in depth. I will just give you the list; you can go over to LATOC to read the article in depth (which I, of course, highly recommend):

(1) develop the right attitude;

(2) stay healthy;

(3) get out of debt;

(4) decide where you're going to live (build your shelter);

(5) buy a good sleeping bag;

(6) have a month of food on hand;

(7) get good peers.

I am preparing on (5) and (6), in particular, or at least starting to. I bought a sleeping bag last week (it wasn't $400, though) and bought a few jars of peanut butter, which Chris Lisle called the "best all-around survival food". I also bought a Swiss Army Knife. I am not one to make New Year's Resolutions, but this year, I am thinking of making an exception. I really want to teach myself some survival skills, and possibly develop a skill that can actually be of some use in this new economy that is upon us. After sending out resumes with no feedback, I have concluded that the economy is Fucked (with a capital "F", yes) and want to think outside the box rather than rely on a B.A. and certification that is obsolete. If you think I'm crazy, read this article about a student at George Washington University who graduated magna cum laude, has sent out 60 resumes, and is at home living with her parents because businesses aren't hiring. Five or ten years ago, this girl could have probably had her pick of employers without so much as an interview.

BTW, really want to try to blog more, it's truly a joy of mine. Will try to make an effort, and hope you enjoy the posts I do make. Happy holidays if I don't post beforehand.