Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Imminent Collapse Of Industrial Society

By Peter Goodchild

The collapse of modern industrial society has 14 parts, each with a somewhat causal relationship to the next. (1) Fossil fuels, (2) metals, and (3) electricity are a tightly-knit group, and no industrial civilization can have one without the others. The decline in fossil-fuel production is the most critical aspect of the collapse, and most of the following text will be devoted to that topic. As those three disappear, (4) food and (5) fresh water become scarce; grain and wild fish supplies per capita have been declining for years, water tables are falling everywhere, rivers are not reaching the sea. Matters of infrastructure then follow: (6) transportation and (7) communication ? no paved roads, no telephones, no computers. After that, the social structure begins to fail: (8) government, (9) education, and (10) the large-scale division of labor that makes complex technology possible.

After these 10 parts, however, there are four others that form a separate layer, in some respects more psychological or sociological. We might call these “the four Cs.” The first three are (11) crime, (12) cults, and (13) craziness ? the breakdown of traditional law; the ascendance of dogmas based on superstition, ignorance, cruelty, and intolerance; the overall tendency toward anti-intellectualism; and the inability to distinguish mental health from mental illness. There is also a final and more general part that is (14) chaos, resulting in the pervasive sense that “nothing works any more.”

These are cascading dominoes; all parts of the collapse have more to do with causality than with chronology, although there is no great distinction to be made between the two. If we look at matters from a more purely chronological viewpoint, however, we can say that there is a clear division into two time periods, two phases. The first phase will be merely economic hardship, and the second will be entropy. In the first phase the major issues will be inflation, unemployment, and the stock market. The second phase will be characterized by the disappearance of money, law, and government. In more pragmatic terms, we can say that the second phase will begin when money is no longer accepted as a means of exchange.

The Triad

Modern industrial society is composed of a triad of fossil fuels, metals, and electricity. The three are intricately connected.

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