Does Your Plan B Include a Second Place to Live If Plan A Doesn’t Work Out?

We all have a Plan A—continue living just like we’re living now.

Some of us have a Plan B in case Plan A doesn’t work out, and the reasons for a Plan B break out into three general categories:

  1. Preppers who foresee the potential for a breakdown in Plan A due to a systemic “perfect storm” of events that could overwhelm the status quo’s ability to supply healthcare, food and transportation fuels for the nation’s heavily urbanized populace.
  2. People who understand their employment is precarious and contingent, and they might have to move to another locale if they lose their job and can’t find another equivalent one quickly.
  3. Those who tire of the stresses of maintaining Plan A and who long for a less stressful, less complex, cheaper and more fulfilling way of living.

The Fragility and Vulnerability of Highly Optimized Supply Chains

Many people are unaware of the fragility of the supply chains that truck in food, fuel and all the other commodities of industrialized comfort to cities. As a general rule, there are only a few days of food and fuel in a typical city, and any disruption quickly empties existing stocks.  (Those interested in learning more might start with the book When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation.)

Most residents may not realize that the government’s emergency services are actually quite limited, and that a relatively small number of casualties/injured people (for example, a few thousand) in an urban area would overwhelm services designed to handle a relative handful of the millions of residents.  Authorities can call up the National Guard to maintain order, but the government isn’t set up to provide food and fuel to millions of people stranded by a natural disaster or a ”Black Swan” (unexpected disruption).

To reduce costs, supply chains and other essential systems have been stripped of redundancies—any break in the optimized flow has the potential to cripple the entire system. Since these highly optimized systems work so well most of the time, we don’t really understand the vulnerabilities that lurk just below the surface of “just in time” deliveries and other efficiencies.

This inherent fragility has long fueled interest in rural “bug-out” retreats, a topic I recently addressed in Having A 'Retreat' Property Comes With Real Challenges.

Where Do We Go When the Economy Falters?

For the past eight years, US politicians and Federal Reserve authorities have attempted to repeal the classic business cycle of growth, stagnation, recession and renewed growth.  It may appear they’ve succeeded, but the era’s slow growth has been sustained by unprecedented expansions of debt in the government, corporate and private sectors.

This extraordinary expansion of debt has been enabled by a decline in interest rates. Most observers with a sense of history view these extremes of debt expansion and near-zero interest rates as unsustainable and destabilizing:


In other words, extending the expansion cycle by extreme policy measures cannot actually repeal the business cycle; rather, these policy extremes increase the likelihood that the eventual recession will be deeper and/or longer than it would have been absent the policy extremes.

Thus we can anticipate a recession of some sort, in which mal-investments and unpayable debts are liquidated and written off, and credit expansion (and the consumption that depends on it) slows or even reverses, as it did in the 2008-09 recession.

Employers must lay off employees when sales and profits fall, and as incomes fall, sales fall further, creating a feedback loop of mutually reinforcing declines in household income and spending.

When the music finally stops, many laid-off employees won’t be able to find a chair (i.e. another job).  Without a job, most people can’t afford to remain in high-cost urban centers for long.

When the 2000 recession gutted employment in the San Francisco Bay Area, 100,000 people moved away.

Recent immigrants to wealthy metro areas have the option of returning home to the village or town they’d left to seek work in the city.  Many immigrants from south of the border have invested their earnings in building new homes in their villages of origin. When the economy north of the Rio Grande falters, they can return to the home they built when their incomes were high.

In China, many of the urban workers laid off in slow periods return to their villages, where there is a source of food (farms) and a roof over their head (the family home).

Today’s “rootless Cosmopolitans” (urban dwelling Americans) typically lack a village they can return to in hard times. So a common Plan B is to seek an equivalent low-cost place to retreat to in recessions.

Where Do We Go When We Burn Out?

There’s a simple phrase that embodies the exhaustion and dissatisfaction we experience when we feel like we’re on a treadmill going nowhere that’s speeding up: Burn-out.

As Historian Fernand Braudel (and others) observed, cities have always had a higher cost of living than the countryside—and offered higher pay scales. Cities aggregate capital, talent and power, and while this dynamism serves to raise many out of poverty, it can also exacerbate wealth and income inequality.

The globalization of labor and capital combined with the aforementioned policy extremes has deepened the divide between “haves” and “have-nots” in many urban regions. Those who bought their homes in desirable metro areas for $150,000 are much wealthier now that these modest homes fetch $750,000 or more. Young people with conventional jobs will never be able to afford these home prices, and so the time-honored source of middle-class security—home ownership—is out of reach.

Many of those who dove in and bought a home are stretching to pay crushing mortgages, soaring taxes and higher costs for healthcare and childcare. They are burning out, and their Plan B is a permanent move to a less burdensome and more fulfilling life elsewhere.

Three Different Purposes, Three Different Durations of Residence

Although Plan B includes a wide spectrum of options, these three basic categories define three different purposes for having an alternative residence lined up, and these purposes define three different durations of Plan B occupancy.

While the serious prepper with a “bug-out” Plan B might be planning for the long haul, others will view their “bug-out” Plan B preparations as a temporary arrangement—a place to go in the event of a natural disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane, or localized social unrest.

Such a temporary home-away-from-home could be as simple as an RV parked in the parents’ driveway, a spare room in a relative’s house or more elaborately, a storage shed turned into a “tiny house.”

Those planning for the eventuality of a much lower income due to recession will have a much different Plan B, as they need dirt-cheap housing for an extended occupancy that might last from a few months to as long as a few years.

The recession Plan B must include planning for childcare/schooling, healthcare, employment/earning a living—all the day-to-day components of Plan A.

The recession Plan B also has to account for the possibility that the return to the Plan A lifestyle will no longer be an option due to health issues, the decline of the sector of employment, or permanent declines in household income.

The burn-out Plan B is intended to be permanent. Plan A is being replaced by a Plan B that must provide the essentials of home, work and community—what I call fully functional residence.

In Part 2: The Benefits & Challenges Of Maintaining A Retreat Property, we present our framework that clarifies the trade-offs, costs and benefits of owning and maintaining a Plan B "retreat" property. There is no "one size fits all" solution to a retreat property -- selecting and operating one needs to be custom tailored to your own individual requirements, resources, skills and risk assessment. Using our framework, we'll help you zero in on the factors that make the most sense given your personal situation.

Maintaining a functional separate retreat residence is a responsibility that comes with real costs and complexities. But if done right, it can yield great returns during both good times and bad.

Click here to read the report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access)

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

It is all we can do to maintain plan A there is no plan b except a bug out box.

When this whole Ponzi scheme comes crashing down it will go global. When Govt’s start falling apart because the system fails you will see violence, chaos, destruction and desparation on a scale we could not imagine.
Those with food and money will be prime targets at the hands of the food zombies. If you have food and shelter you better have protection and lots of it and you better know how to use it because you’ll need to.
People who are at the wrong end of a failing system will be highly pissed and will come look for anyone who’s better off than they are. In the words of Gerald Celente: "When people have nothing else to lose and lose EVERYTHING…, they LOSE IT!
And we can expect just from past history that the unraveling of our Industrialized Ponzi scheme (Financial, banking and monetary) system can come apart QUICKLY.
Just ask Hank Paulson who admonished then President G.W. Bush to save the TBTF Banks. In his words he said if the Banks aren’t bailed out the World eCONomy will come to a halt and we’ll have tanks roaming US cities with Martial Law implemented.
As a teaser just watch the 1981 movie Rollover to get an idea how things might unravel and how ugly things could get. I’m one individual who hasn’t ruled out a Mad Max scenario. World Govt’s have systemically domesticated their populations. They have made us rely on the systems they have put in place for our basic existence. As the article says if the J.I.T. fails there’s about three worth of food on store shelves. And our fat and happy politicians won’t give a damn because they’ll be out taking care of themselves and their families first. Think Hurricane Sandy with people dumpster diving within hours after the hurricane hit.

You are spot on. Mad Max will rape and pillage rural America, the dumb twits who voted for trump.

I’ve been visiting here since 07, and I used to think it would be a big crash as well, but now I think it’s going to be a slow crash. Every year everyone has less. The basics are more expensive, so I make do with less. It’s harder to find jobs, so i work less, and so on.
The GFC had money printing, the next crisis will be helicopter money, instead of the big crash we are all waiting for, we will have another 10 years of more of the same. Less value for money, things are more expensive. Maybe we have a small crash, another GFC where everyone loses 50% but things go back to business as usual after that. Maybe we have mass riots, or a small war, or a hurricane wipes out a city, but after that, we all pick up poorer and poorer.
My solution is the same, make my garden bigger, keep my distance from the grid, and help family and friends. I practice every week at the range, but if you want to be happy and healthy then don’t live in fear and worry. Go build something or grow something or do something. The only way out of this mess short term or long term is to become the people we were years ago, the people who grew their own food and built their own houses, who worked together and with each other.

One of the themes from comparative zoology is the surface area to volume ratio of an animal. Heat is exchanged with the environment through surface area, but heat is generated in the metabolic activity of cells – which is closely related to its mass or volume. As animals get bigger, the surface area to volume ratio decreases, so physiologic strategies to manage heat flow must change.
I can envision that community size might be analogous.
The inside of the community, the volume, will need to be big enough to contain many skills: repair a chainsaw, fix plumbing, recognize diseases in chickens, deliver babies, harvest and thresh grain, care for a horse, have the muscle power to split several cords of firewood, etc. etc. Bigger communities can have more skills. However, on the downside, bigger communities, larger volumes, will also require more food, water and housing. In a grid down setting, a lake or river, barns, farmable land, fire wood and enough stored food to get through the winter will limit the number of people the community can bring through to survival.
And the perimeter of the community will need to be defended. A fence / ditch / boundary structure of some kind will need to be maintained and watched by sufficient dedicated lookouts. Enough “shooters” will need to be on call to respond to breach or threat to that boundary. A perimeter that is partially protected by a natural barrier like a mountain pass or an island surrounded by water would offer tremendous advantage.
One of the (fictitious) stories I have heard many times is a rural farm / community that had enough people to work the farm but not enough to defend its borders. The farm community had to take in refugees to get sufficient “shooters” available to defend its borders. But they could NOT take in more people than they could feed and shelter. (Stored food in the first year and to be grown the year after.)
So it sounds like a small town, surrounded by natural barriers, rich in water, good land and good neighbors would be best. And, the numbers of people that can be included in the community, especially during a (possible) sudden transition phase, will be closely related to the amount of food and water stored there.
Non-preppers may have valuable skills that they can offer to a community. However they will come without stored food and water (as they thought prepping was “stupid.”) The community will have to store enough to feed them through the first winter, and turn away would-be immigrants when resources are exceeded.
One last issue: The apartment complex. 250 people living in a location without independent water, stored food, or any capacity to grow their own food. What happens with them?

If N remember correctly, the cliff dwellers in New Mexico lasted quite a long time. But the Aztecs were determined, and shortly before the time of Cortez conquered them and ate them in their “great feast”.
So yes, it may help. But in the end, it seems the Aztecs win. Darn.

Mad Max is predicated on magically infinite supplies of gasoline and on disarmed Australians. Collapse fast or slow, eventually almost everyone will be on foot. It is said that there are 300 million firearms in the United States (enough to arm just about everyone older then age 5). I don’t know how many of those guns are in drawers somewhere and have never been fired but I suspect that it is quite a few. Perhaps 1% of the American population has received professional firearm training, another 5% might be competent amateurs. I think the issue may not be one of worrying about being attacked by an armed group as much as one of worrying about getting into an armed group. After the dust settles there may only be two groups of people left, the homicidal and the dead.
The people in the hypothetical apartment complex will be dead within a week. They might last a few more days if they conserve water in toilets and water heaters, but most won’t.
This seems to be like the “was 9-11 a controlled demo?” conversations, you can either wrap your head around it, or you can’t.
I feel bad about being such a doomer, but it’s what I am.
John G.

Form an armed group for community defense now. Avoid the rush when the collapse comes. And don’t just plan for defense. Offense will be required against the evil armed groups who will be roaming around and setting up ambushes on highways, streets and markets.

Any type of collapse/ gradual step-down will lead to much less complexity and availability of resources/ energy. If we go back to ‘1890 - scenario’, Sweden had in that period 4-5 million persons living in it (now around 10 million). But in 1890 we had centuries of relative stability and a population close to the land who knew how to work it and produce resources (and even then there were periods of famine).
An ‘undershoot’ to 1-2 million seems reasonable and aligned to the carrying capacity of land and society. That final outcome (9 -> 1-2 million persons) doesn’t worry me too much, nor is the work that it will be to supply for the family. What worries me most is the process of getting to there (potential Mad Max with roaming gangs?) and the governance system that will ‘rule over’ the remaining persons. Some governance systems are more stable than others: warlord and feudal system (with serfdom systems) are more stable than democracy… Not the most pleasant systems to live in…

Like many others, I find value in modeling the decline and collapse of the western Roman Empire. (The Eastern Roman Empire, Byzantium, continued on for another 1,000 years. Comparing the two is valuable.) I have read a dozen books (or so) on Rome’s ascent and collapse, as well as as several on the Byzantine Empire and the early Middle Ages that followed Western Rome’s demise.
There is little record of mass die-offs. That required the Plague (later in the Middle Ages). Rome depopulated relatively quickly–roughly 80% of the populace moved away once the Bread and Circuses (free bread) ended when the Vandals conquered North Africa, Rome’s breadbasket.
As Afridev notes, collapse is gradual, and tends to follow John Michael Greer’s model of stair-steps down the complexity scale. The archeological and written record of the late Roman era suggests systems became less complex as the tax base that supported the Empire eroded, and people started dealing with the “Barbarian” (in quotes because they were mostly Roman soldiers and Generals) rulers of former Roman provinces.
The point here is systems and values continue on for hundreds of years even after central hierarchies go away. It doesn’t take much food and energy to get by once 80% of the complexity goes away. Those analysts who predict a breakup of nation-states into smaller polities may be onto something. There was no Mad Max in the Roman collapse, even when a large percentage of Rome’s populace was dependent on free bread. The free bread went away, they moved on and became peasants.
Even “warlords” like Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan had orderly empires that were peaceful if you paid your annual tribute.

You wrote:

Those with food and money will be prime targets at the hands of the food zombies. If you have food and shelter you better have protection and lots of it and you better know how to use it because you'll need to.
Which got me to thinking. It seems to me that if you aren't prepared to be one of those people who are prepared, then by default you will have to become one of those food zombies who are raiding friends, neighbors or other targets of opportunity. Not a pleasant dichotomy. Even the most prepared of us now could wind up wandering around, hat in hand asking for handouts, if the twists of fate go against them. The point being that any of us could wind up on the outside of a fence somewhere. It will take most communities a while to organize neighborhood watches but it will take roving people/families a while to organize into well led mobs too (inner city gangs could be an exception). In the mean time, it will be a lot of lone wolves looking for easy pickings. Not sure how many of them will be looking to encounter, never mind slaughter, other people who may or may not be armed. Likewise, initially at least, homeowners and communities will not be shooting every looter on sight. We picture nasty, tattooed frothing-at-the-mouth killers out of a movie but will be more likely to get soccer moms and starving kids. Over time, I expect interactions and social mores will evolve, especially if people give up on a near-term return to 'normal' civilization. I am going to be relocating over the next few months so we'll be weathering a period of vulnerability with fingers crossed before rebuilding our resiliency and community again elsewhere. No matter which scenario(s) we envision, none will be stable. If there is a total breakdown, even a Mad Max scenario cannot persist for long. I have lived and worked in places outside of any effective law enforcement and communities do exist there and they are not unstable or without order. The problem is getting through the period of instability after a breakdown until a new order is established. Preparation is nothing more than trying to improve your odds of doing so.

I don’t see how it can be possible to stair step down the complexity scale, at least with little steps. I just can’t imagine how that could happen. I wish that I could and would be very happy to have a happier vision of how this might unfold. Right now though, it seem to me that we either have an entirely intact highly complex system, or we fall back to an ultra- primitive one.

  1. Population location related to food production location.
    One extreme example is the Los Angeles basin. Over 10 million people live in an area without significant rainfall and without much local food production. Their survival depends on having the trucks running (fuel, spare parts, road repaired) to bring food in from the some what distant agricultural areas in the central valley.
    Water is carried in via gravity fed canals, then pumped to elevated storage tanks. Without an intact electrical grid to make the final delivery, each family might need to walk a few miles with a bucket and a little red wagon to a pool to fetch that days water…
  2. Spare parts for my car
    My car was assembled in the USA from parts made in multiple countries all of which are located in Asia. Each part is designed as a CAD file (some in India I suspect) and transmitted electronically to a manufacturing facility. The finished part is shipped to a the USA for assembly. I cannot keep my car running without international trade and communication networks. I suppose that others with the same car model could get together and cooperatively cannibalize some vehicles to assemble a shared one that worked.
    Same with bicycles. My Specialized brand bike was designed in Gilroy, CA, but all of its parts were made in China.
  3. So my car and bike no longer work. I wish to stair step down the complexity scale to a horse drawn carriage. But I have no horse, no barn and no field. I live in a suburb. I have no source of leather for the harnesses and straps as there are no slaughter houses or leather processing plants near me. I don’t have blacksmithing tools or shop or skills to manufacture parts for a cart. So I am on foot, maybe with a wagon or wheelbarrow (until it breaks). With a much more gradual (say 10 or 15 year) descent, we could start slaughtering cattle and processing leather closer to home.
  4. So me and 50,000 others in my town of 100,000 realize there is no possible way we can husband our horses or grow enough food in our suburban / town and decide to move out to the country. Fortunately, we are surrounded by rich farmland. We will go there. Oops. Somebody is already is living there. And they don’t seem to want to have several hundred of us city folk moving in with them on “their” farm. We really think that they should share with us and “be fair” as we are not bad people and just want a place to live and work. They shoot a shotgun over our heads and tell us to keep moving…
    I cannot envision how the first stair step down could be anything but an immense drop.
    Please paint a different picture for me if you have one.

Here is JM Greer’s discussion of his model of catabolic collapse:…
I am not predicting what will happen–of course a collapse could occur–but as of the near-term, the US has sufficient fossil fuels to grow and transport food and maintain public order. Back of the envelope, 4-5 MBD (or natty gas equivalent) is still a lot of energy–if used wisely.
Eliminate most air travel (ration it, and let people sell their ration cards on the open market), tightly ration private vehicle fuel, clamp down on the incredible, monumental waste of our society, and there would be plenty of food, lighting, basic public transport for 300+ M people.
My estimate is we could cut 60% - 75% of our consumption and live quite well. This is based on my own life experience with very low consumption lifestyles that consume 25% to 50% of conventional measures of food-fossil-fuel calories, fuel, water, etc.
We drive 2000-2500 miles annually - combined mileage of both our autos. 2000 gallons of water for two months, $130 a month for all food, incl. entertaining./sharing with others. I am sure many of you have similar experiences. When I lived in the “storage shed” I mentioned, consumption was much lower.
Will people choose a lower-consumption lifestyle? probably not. But they may not have a choice, and the government has a long history of imposing strict rationing. Why wouldn’t they respond to scarcities as they have in the past?
Humans squander abundance. Scarcities /rationing modify behaviors quite rapidly. That’s one scenario with some history behind it.


It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job. I's a depression when you lose your job. - Harry S. Truman
I see the financial crisis of 2008 as one of the stair steps down the "crashcade." (I'm not sure if the dot com crash qualifies as a prior step or not.) Look at what has transpired since the great recession. Have average wages kept up with (real) inflation and tax increases? Have savers and retirees been thrown under the bus by FOMC ZIRP policies in order to save the banks? Has environmental degradation recovered much (if any?) Are your hopes and dreams for the future as lofty as they were 10 years ago? If not for debt load increases that papered over the recession, the economy would have fared much worse. And yet, the system still limps along. For some, it is a depression while for most it is a seemingly endless recession. For others, it has been great business opportunity. Individual mileage varies. You can still get parts for your "domestic" car and bicycle. But, what happens when the next stair step hits (another financial crisis, war, disease outbreak, etc.?) Will we be able to respond with more debt to paper over that recession? My thoughts are that more people will be affected than last time. For them, it will be much more painful and the resulting outlook will be less cheerful. I don't think it will bring the economy to a standstill. I suspect that overall, we'll recover somewhat. Given enough stair steps, we won't be able to recover. That last step will look like what you describe. We're not there yet. Grover

Sudden collapse or gradual, grinding decline? They reach basically the same end-point but in completely different ways because of the pace of change. A gradual, grinding decline is easier to adjust to and therefore it’s what we can hope for if we’re not going to get some kind of cornucopian-miracle future. A sudden collapse, of course, is very difficult or impossible to adjust to so people get desperate and many don’t survive. Like CHS, I think I’d adjust well enough to a gradual, grinding decline without a great deal of angst or suffering. But like sand-puppy, I’m concerned about a sudden collapse and am making preparations for it because if it happens there will be little to no time to adjust to it.
What we have going for us is that historically most societies decay rather than collapse. Maybe ours will be another one that decays and we’ll all adjust. But there are those that collapse, especially if the time span for the collapse is opened up to include a period of say 3 years, instead of 3 days or 3 months as is envisioned by many who are concerned about a collapse of modern Western societies. For instance, Poland started a collapse in 1939 that spanned 3-5 years. Venezuela appears to be in the midst of a 3 year collapse today. Weimar Germany took about 3 years to collapse in the early 1920’s. Rwanda had a collapse that could be dated 1990-1994, or shorter.
If Jim Rickards were participating in our discussion I think he’d point out that a collapse is more likely if you’re working from a complexity theory mental model. He’d say a gradual, grinding decline would be more likely if you’re working from a linear model or equilibrium model. He believes the complexity model is the right model for our financial system (and society in general), and in the complexity model there are sudden, dramatic collapses (and minor slides that can resemble stair-steps downward). He uses the example of a snowy mountainside that is building up a dangerous amount of snow and is bound to collapse in an avalanche. We often use the avalanche image here at PP too. We also often use the term “fragile” to refer to our economy, just-in-time delivery system, etc. and fragile things often shatter and almost never gradually decay (because that’s the nature of fragility). Here’s a brief overview:
Personally, I believe ours is the epitome of a complex or overly-complex society that is on the verge of collapse (allowing for a collapse that unfolds for up to 3 years or so). The complexity model fits us in my mind. I’d much prefer to gradually decline, and I hold out tiny specks of hope that some of the “tension” built up in our system can be gradually relieved by smaller steps down so that a sudden, monumental collapse doesn’t have to happen. That’s what they try to do with snowy mountains threatening to avalanche: shoot some artillery shells into the snow hoping to cause small snow slides that release enough pressure to avoid a full-blown avalanche that takes out the village below.
Either way, I believe we are about to find out which it will be.
“Welcome to the Hunger Games. And may the odds be ever in your favor.”

We should have our mare settled.
Were the Luddites correct? Derrick Jensen, wouldn’t label his ideology after a fighter of industrialization, but practically that is what he is.
As well, should we welcome the 18th centur?, watching the slide will be painful!
do we take to heart the oft repeated axiom to “collapse now and avoid the rush”?
It seems most folk aware of their plight are trying to take their lifestyle with them into the next paradigm. It ain’t happening

Afridev posted the following BBC piece in today’s Daily Digest:
This paragraph particularly caught my attention:

Whether in the US, UK or elsewhere, the more dissatisfied and afraid people become, Homer-Dixon says, the more of a tendency they have to cling to their in-group identity – whether religious, racial or national. Denial, including of the emerging prospect of societal collapse itself, will be widespread, as will rejection of evidence-based fact. If people admit that problems exist at all, they will assign blame for those problems to everyone outside of their in-group, building up resentment. “You’re setting up the psychological and social prerequisites for mass violence,” Homer-Dixon says. When localised violence finally does break out, or another country or group decides to invade, collapse will be difficult to avoid.
When the author says the more afraid and dissatisfied people become the more they will cling to their in-group identity, I detect a tone of disapproval (this is the BBC after all). On the other hand, we here talk about building up our social capital and resiliency in an appropriately sized community. That sounds wise and positive to me, but I think both descriptions are describing the same thing. So there might be a debate around the question: Which is it -- are we negatively clinging to our in-group identity or are we positively building social capital and resiliency? The author then raises the issue of denial (that we are declining and risking collapse). I would say that those in the US and the EU who are advocating for unlimited or massive immigration are in denial of "evidence-based facts" about limited resources, social conflict and our impending collapse. The author has a strong optimistic side:
On the other hand, Western societies may not meet with a violent, dramatic end. In some cases, civilisations simply fade out of existence – becoming the stuff of history not with a bang but a whimper. The British Empire has been on this path since 1918, Randers says, and other Western nations might go this route as well. As time passes, they will become increasingly inconsequential and, in response to the problems driving their slow fade-out, will also starkly depart from the values they hold dear today. “Western nations are not going to collapse, but the smooth operation and friendly nature of Western society will disappear, because inequity is going to explode,” Randers argues. “Democratic, liberal society will fail, while stronger governments like China will be the winners.”
I can easily handle a British Empire kind of slow catabolic collapse (that "mare is settled"). I think I'd like a much simpler, more local kind of existence (as long as I have a little electricity from time to time, indoor plumbing, and hot/cold running water I can actually drink cool). But there are several differences between the British Empire in 1918, and the US and the EU today that have me very concerned: 1. The speed of communication and travel makes a lot of things happen faster and faster (and orders of magnitude faster than the British world of 1918-1960). 2. Environmental issues are much worse. 3. Population pressures are much worse (the sheer numbers), and population concentrations in urban areas are much greater. 4. Financial complexity is off-the-charts worse, and everyone in the world is using fiat currency (no gold-backed or commodity-backed money). Gold-backed money seems to cause economies to move more slowly (up or down), whereas economies using fiat currencies can go super critical over a weekend (re: Treasury Secretary Paulson's warnings in 2008 about tanks on American streets if he and the banks didn't get their way, RIGHT NOW!). Even if a gradual catabolic decline is a 90% certainty and a sudden collapse is only a 10% certainty, I'm still much more concerned about the sudden collapse (super high impact, low probability). And I think a sudden collapse is much more than a 10% proposition.

In my opinion, War will happen before a collapse. As the economy continues to decline, Populations will select charismatic leaders that make promises to fix everything. They will blame outsiders, and political groups in order to drum up support for a centrallly (gov’t) controlled economy. Sooner or later these adminstrations will go to war. We can already see the beginning in the US and Europe.
Its also likely the the public will not have the option to choose less aggressive leaders, in the US presidential election both party candidates supported more war. When major problems mount, there are no willing sane people stepping up to run, because no sane person wants to plunge themselves into the swamp. The only candidates that will run are those that seek power for their own means or have an ego the size of Manhattan. Consider that during the Great Depression, Most of the world replaced thier gov’t with nationalist that ended in WW2. I don’t think this time will be different.
The problem is that when the next World War happens, its very likely going to be extinction level event. Not only will Nuclear Weapons be used, but also biological weapons. After the war, all of the surface water (lakes, rivers, oceans) will be polluted to the point higher lifeforms can not survive. While the Nuclear bombs themselves will not cause extereme pollution, it will be a combination of meltdowns at nuclear power plants (~440 world wide), Cities that burn for months unleashing billions of tons of pollution worldwide. Consider that after the bombs fall, there will be no firefighter, or infrastructure repair crews to address the aftermath.
With the cities burning for months, nuclear power meltdowns that release around million tons of radioactive material, its likely that all of the land will become siginificantly contaminated. with long half-life/decay chain isotopes, as well as toxic compounds released from the burning cities. Crop plants will absorb these contaminates from the soil and from rainfall. Cancer rates for survivors will likely be high as they consume contaminated food & water. I think the only way to grow uncontamineted food is in greenhouses or land that was shielded from contamination (ie using plastic sheeting), and have a deep well availble to access uncontamined water.

move all animals from fields with surface water.
Put in barn for month.
thanks TechGuy