I get emails from several Oxfords, but this week’s best came from the nearest and contained a link to “a lecture you’ll find worth looking at — coffee/keyboard interface warning.” The warning was heeded and needed. The lecture, by Dmitry Orlov, given to the Long Now Foundation in San Francisco on Feb 13 as a part of Long Now’s Seminars About Long Term Thinking, is titled Social Collapse Best Practices [Long Now report here, full text at ClubOrlov]. According to Orlov, who had direct experience of social collapse in Russia after the demise of the communist system (his thesis is that the US is moving rapidly towards closing its “collapse gap” with Russia), four things are important during a collapse — food, shelter, transportation and security. But especially security:
And so we will have former soldiers, former police, and former prisoners: a big happy family, with a few bad apples and some violent tendencies. The end result will be a country awash with various categories of armed men, most of them unemployed, and many of them borderline psychotic. […] All of them will be making good use of their weapons training and other professional skills to acquire whatever they need to survive. And the really important point to remember is that they will do these things whether or not anyone thinks it legal for them to do be doing them.
It’s important to stay on the right side of these people:
Some legal impediments are really small and trivial, but they can be quite annoying nevertheless. A homeownersâ€™ association might, say, want give you a ticket or seek a court order against you for not mowing your lawn, or for keeping livestock in your garage, or for that nice windmill you erected on a hill that you donâ€™t own, without first getting a building permit, or some municipal busy-body might try to get you arrested for demolishing a certain derelict bridge because it was interfering with boat traffic â€“ you know, little things like that. Well, if the association is aware that you have a large number of well armed, mentally unstable friends, some of whom still wear military and police uniforms, for old timeâ€™s sake, then they probably wonâ€™t give you that ticket or seek that court order.
Orlov’s theme is bleak — especially if you live in the USA — but his presentation is superbly funny: black comedy with a message. I’ve already taken his comments about gardening to heart… Read, inwardly digest, and then ask yourself if perhaps our politicians might spend less time worrying about stimulus packages and more about survival: fitting out the lifeboat, as it were.
The Long Now Foundation are an interesting bunch, formed to build a 10,000 year clock and to encourage long term thinking. Their SALT series of lectures are available free as podcasts and via iTunes (Orlov’s talk should be up soon). The January lecture was Climate Change Recalculated by Saul Griffith, and looks at the relationship between CO2 targets and the amount of renewable energy required to reach them. That’s my weekend listening…
(Thanks, Sonny — welcome to the lifeboat…).