There are always plenty of disaster based scenarios that get speculated on in the prepper community. I guess it's like any extreme event, it gets our attention even if the chances of any specific disaster occurring is low. Of course, if the preparation for an event has a low cost, either in money or time, then it probably is worthwhile to invest in that preparation. Better yet, if we can change our lifestyle so that we are inherently more resilient to emergency type situations, that would be ideal. This article however will not be about any one specific scenario, it will be about what to do to prepare for the slow decline that is western Civilization.
The first step is always to identify the problem, and a Collapse of society is going to be a messy thing that will affect populations disproportionately. But in general I will try to outline the necessary preparations that will help my readers with the irreversible collapse.
If you need some convincing that this is what will most likely happen, I am happy to provide some back up research.
Nasa-funded Study: Industrial Civilization Headed For 'Irreversible Collapse'!
The study is worded in obtuse language as they usually are: Human and nature dynamics (HANDY): Modeling inequality and use of resources in the collapse or sustainability of societies but in general it outlines that societal collapses have occurred frequently in history, often followed by centuries of economic, intellectual, and population decline. Many different natural and social phenomena are used to explain specific collapses.
It is a very interesting paper to look through, but the basic jist is that the researchers constructed a mathmatical way to predict how fast a societal collapse will be when the amount of wealth in a society (gained by the depletion of natural resources) becomes unequally divided between the Elites and Commoners (who are split into workers and non-workers). Needless to say, the results do not bode well for our present condition.
However, the scientists point out that the worst-case scenarios are by no means inevitable, and suggest that appropriate policy and structural changes could avoid collapse, if not pave the way toward a more stable civilisation.
Western Civilization Is In A Bubble
I've also found a few other pieces of information that support this position. Ted Fischer, a professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt University, studies the ways cultural values influence economic decisions. This might seem a bit dry and off-topic, but an interview he gave about the fate of our own society is a real eye opener.
Here he talks about why the Mayan Civilization collapsed:
The divine kings of the Classic Maya civilization led their societies in religion, religious constructions, and enormous rituals, as well as warfare. When that civilization ran into problems of overpopulation, environmental damage, drought and economic competition in the late eighth century, they could only respond with ever greater rituals and temple construction to appease the (clearly unsatisfied) deities, as well as responding through warfare against other states.
These steps were actually counterproductive, imposing additional costs and damage and not addressing the real problems. Yet, any really helpful response would have involved political change to redefine the very nature [of] leadership and its roles and institutions.
It should be clear to anyone reading how well our Western society is reflected in the above statement. He goes on to say that one of our greatest strengths, that of the interconnectedness of the world's commerce, will be what will be our greatest weakness when a disruption event occurs to that system. The shortening of planning and leadership goals that our hyper capitalist system has created will eventually lead to a grand systemic collapse.
Can We Avert The Collapse?
A few years ago David Eagleman, a neuroscientist and American writer, delivered a lecture entitled ‘Six Easy Steps to Avert the Collapse of Civilization’. His lecture can be summarized in six points:
1) Try not to cough on one another - reduce the amount of population that dies from disease.
2) Don't lose things - make sure that gains in knowledge are not buried or lost.
3) Tell each other faster - better flows of information will help more people.
4) Mitigate tyranny - forceful governments do not adapt well.
5) Get more brains involved in solving problems - educate more people faster.
6) Try not to run out of energy - energy comes from resources, if they are depleted then society cannot function.
If we are able to as a civilization encourage these six elements, Mr. Eagleman says that we can avoid a collapse that has happened to so many great civilizations of the past.
Unfortunately (not that I am as great a thinker as he is) I do not believe this is so. The downfall that I see in this list is the communication aspect. Better flows of information work for both good and bad actors. If the people in charge (in government, CIA, NSA, or whatever) have better access to flows of information (which they do), then they will inevitably use that information to maintain their control which will eventually lead to a tyrannical government of some sort. And so on that point alone, the system is doomed to fail.
When will the Collapse Happen?
To get a better idea of timing, we need to talk about the stages of a civilization. If we can correctly identify the stage we are currently in, we can get a better idea on the timing of what might come.
According to different sources, there are between seven and nine historical stages of civilization. I preset two lists for you here:
Seven Stage List:
4. Age of Conflict
5. Universal Empire
Nine Stage List:
1. From bondage to spiritual faith;
2. from spiritual faith to great courage;
3. from courage to liberty;
4. from liberty to abundance;
5. from abundance to selfishness;
6. from selfishness to complacency;
7. from complacency to apathy;
8. from apathy to dependence;
9. from dependency back again into bondage.
If we look at the first set (much more information about that here), depending how you want to interpret what is going on in society, most likely the core countries that make up the West fall in the late fourth and fifth stages of civilization. We are not in the Decay period yet as institutions and general governance are still able to function normally.
Dr. Allen Roland believes we are in the eighth stage of the second list although he didn't really make a strong case for why he chose that specific place. For sure we are at least past the abundance stage (#5), and we are definitely somewhere within six-eight. Where we are on the scales might depend on how much of a pessimist or optimist one is.
When people cynically stop looking for solutions to the problems of life and society, they drop out of the system. They then turn to mindless entertainment, to luxuries and sexual activity, and to drugs and alcohol.
For a large portion of the population, the quote above describes them fairly well. This would be about stage seven of nine (no relation to the Star Trek version). America also has a large amount of people dependent on the Government to stay afloat as well. There are almost 43 million Americans receiving food stamps to feed themselves, representing almost 14% of the population. Although there has a recent downturn due to some economic recovery the last few years, that is still a lot of people who are dependent on the Government. Maybe we are closer the number eight than we think.
How quickly will the decay stage come?
The good news is that we still have time to get ready. For many people, things are still humming along, although life is definitely tougher than it was a few years back. Understand that even the Decay stage can be further split up to give us more perspective.
1. Financial Collapse
2. Commercial Collapse
3. Political Collapse
4. Social Collapse
5. Cultural Collapse
Most would agree that we are in the midst of the first stage here of financial collapse. Multiple financial upheavals in the last few years have demonstrated to us that things are quite unstable. Governments have implemented massive debt spending in order to keep the system going, but eventually even these efforts must eventually fail. There is only so much debt that can be created before people begin to lose faith in the system.
Faith in “business as usual” is lost. The future is no longer assumed [to] resemble the past in any way that allows risk to be assessed and financial assets to be guaranteed. Financial institutions become insolvent; savings are wiped out, and access to capital is lost.
Eventually the roulette game of debt will stop. Every level of government plays this game and are trying to extend it for as long as possible. Some governments are not as good as others as we have witnessed various city governments going bankrupt, the most well known being Detroit in recent years.
There a a few ways that a government can extend the indebtedness lifespan.
1. Import more (mostly low paid) workers
2. Acquire access to resources at below market cost
3. Print money
We see the American Government doing all three. The push for massive amounts of new immigrants, the 'wars' in the Middle East over oil, and continued financial stimulus packages to bolster the economy.
Municipal and city governments do not the opportunity to the last two options. But they do have ways to attract more workers. Don't you ever wonder why a city decides to become a 'sanctuary city'? One that welcomes as many illegal immigrants as possible... It's because the people in charge know that without the constant influx of workers, the financials of the city will soon implode without them. It is a temporary relief as the ponzi scheme has to end at some point.
The Economic Signs Are Beginning To Show
Ultimately, we do not know when we will hit the slippery slope of the final economic downturn of the times. It might be a few years, it might be another decade or more. But the signs are there. Lets take a quick review:
- The resources (wealth) of the planet are being accumulated more and more by fewer and fewer individuals and corporations. Remember our first graph, when the imbalance or resources becomes intolerable, collapse ensues.
- A large portion of the populace is dependent on the Government for living.
- Debt is becoming unmanageable at every level, from the individual, to municipality, to the States/Provinces, and the Federal.
- Moral decay as people become more complacent and distracted by entertainment that is becoming more and more extreme.
- Resources needing to be secured by constant military actions (wars).
We are at the beginning stages of a final financial crisis. The powers-that-be of the Western world are doing all that they can hold back the inevitable. In the meantime they are exchanging debt money for actual resources and are amassing as much as they can to try to stay in control when the system collapses. Like you, they do not want the system to fail. They are at the top, why would they want the system to fail? But ultimately, the greed of everyone within the system, the inherent competition of capitalism, will make the system collapse.
How Can We Protect Ourselves?
Essentially, we know that life will get tougher, and the economic system we are dependent on to bring us our luxuries will break enough to severely affect our lives in a physical way. But enough of the doom and gloom, what can we do about it?
At the beginning of the article, I mentioned that the easiest way to prepare was to incorporate strategies of resilience within our daily lives. I will cover those in another article, as this one has gotten quite lengthy already.
But I will be honest, I have tricked you somewhat. All those links to experts sounding the alarm, all the facts and lessons in history...this article was designed to make you understand that things will not go on forever. The first preparation is mental preparation and acceptance.
I am not trying to instill fear (as many of these sites do), living in fear is not a way to live. I am trying to make you understand that if you truly understand what will soon come, then you will make concrete steps to protect yourself from the inevitable economic collapse. It doesn't have to be scary, it doesn't mean you have to live your life in constant emergency mode, but what it does mean is that should start doing something to help your future self from the hardships that you and your family will be faced with eventually.