James Howard Kunstler: Living In The Long Emergency

Unsustainable systems, by definition, eventually break down.

That’s been a key warning we at Peak Prosperity have been delivering for over a decade regarding the over-indebted global economy, society’s addiction to depleting fossil fuels, and accelerating ecological destruction.

The coronavirus pandemic has placed such intense and unexpected strain on this unstable house of cards that its odds of toppling sooner have increased substantially. Few people understand this better – from the historic job destruction impacting tens of millions to the social anger starting to boil over – than James Howard Kunstler.

His new book Living In The Long Emergency (which builds on its classic predecessor) not only predicted what’s happening now, but lays out what life in the aftermath will be like and how to best position for it today.

And yet, while the status quo still reigns as things worsen, those in power refuse to recognize the risks. In fact, they’re doubling down on the same strategies that have undermined the system – ignorant that when it breaks, it will be to their peril, too:

We're seeing the kind of feckless behavior that you see from the elite in just about every wobbling empire or wobbling civilization that’s come along. They develop a strange kind of a short-sided fecklessness that is amazing.

But what’s even more amazing is that you think that the public in general — especially all the people who just got laid off from jobs which will never come back — you’d think that those people would be getting just a bit ticked off about the fact that the Dow Jones goes up every day. But there’s very little public expression of that.

It took the death of a black man in Minneapolis in a particularly ugly way to stimulate a certain kind of uproar in America. You’d think that at least some kind of uproar would be stimulated by this divergence between the unreality of the stock market and the harsh reality of people losing their incomes, their jobs and their futures. And yet it’s not present.

The shamelessness of it is just staggering. You’d think that Jay Powell would try to make the stock market go down for three days in a row just so the people, you know, wouldn’t get the idea that it only goes up.

You can make arguments that it’s not going to go up forever and that there will be some kind of a reckoning over that. And the time will come when the hedge funders and the employees of BlackRock Finance and K Street lobbyists are going to wake up some morning and find out that they’re not as wealthy as they thought they were.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris’ interview with James Howard Kunstler (64m:20s).

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://peakprosperity.com/james-howard-kunstler-living-in-the-long-emergency/

Looking at the picture used to illustrate this podcast, and given enough time, I wonder:

  1. how long will their nicely woven and sewn clothes be available?
  2. where will that green hose come from? and the metal holder?
  3. ditto the steel tyres on that wagon?
    And so on. What technologies will sputter and falter first?
    By the way, I think metallurgists have one of the most under-appreciated skills in our whole society.

I don’t know. JHK has been beating this drum for a long time. I remember back in 2008-2009 when I was heavy into this website (then Chrismartenson.com, I recall), that I was convinced the disintegration of social order and our way of life was coming soon. It felt like it then and it feels like it now. But I no longer underestimate what the PTB can pull off. Someday things may collapse (maybe slowly, maybe all at once), but this time, I am not running for the hills. That was a personal mistake I made then and it set me back a bit. Maybe it will be a personal mistake now to not worry about a reckoning…even in my lifetime. Guess I am just no longer a fan of disaster porn.

Everyone is well aware of the ever increasing manipulation of free speech by TPTB on social media & multiple internet sites, the shaping of the narrative of the day by the MSM, etc. The demonetizing of Zerohedge this past week by YouTube/Google, and PayPal deplatforming ZH is particularly disturbing. We all knew it was coming, but now that it’s overtly occurring I’m quite disturbed. The elites can easily prod 51% of the population where they want them to go. In the past I always thought people were being over the top when they talked about freedom being lost, but now I’m very much feeling it with vast internet and social media censorship, the 24/7 propaganda from the MSM (if you don’t believe me watch the national news daily & note which stories, themes, and slanted commentary is seen & which other news stories receive no mention…compare with a robust variety of news sources on the internet), the Fed, politicians, etc. across the globe in a seeming coordinated fashion. “The economy is coming back, and we have a lot to be optimistic about…Our policies at the Fed do not lead to wealth inequality…We have plenty of tools in our toolbox to support the economy…We are not monetizing the debt…The economy was extremely just prior to CV-19, and we had near full unemployment “. As Chris M. would say Whaaaattttt!!! Civil discourse is an extreme rarity, and it seems like every effort is made to not even allow the possibility of it occurring. If someone has even a slightly different opinion on just about any social issue they are demonized and somehow made out to be an extremist at the other end of the spectrum. Medicine & science of all things has been co-opted by TPTB. Since when did YouTube become the judge of science? …If you say something that contradicts the (completely discredited) WHO then your content is subject to deletion. I’ve never seen such politicalization of medicine. Anyway, if people can’t see that it’s full-on 24/7 propaganda and twisting of reality by TPTB then they aren’t paying attention.
I think it’s a real possibility sites like PP could somehow go away. I’m sure there are PTB that would love to shut up all those who contribute to PP. Critically thinking truth seekers are the last type TPTB want to be freely communicating.

“It took the death of a black man in Minneapolis in a particularly ugly way to stimulate a certain kind of uproar in America.”
No it didn’t. There are hundreds of unfair deaths each month in America, some of them good guys (or gals) and some of them bad ones. There are also violent rapes, ugly knifings, homicidal arsons, hideous assaults and battery, and so on.
What’s different about the present turmoil is that the mass media has been portraying the protesters and looters as heroic revolutionaries, righteous rebels fighting for laudable ideals, soldiers of that cliche catch-all term “human rights”.
What it took to “stimulate a certain kind of uproar in America” was a decision by puppet-masters who control the mass media to foment the uproar, perhaps along with some marching orders issued by their allies who organize and fund the antifa.
If you think this is a spontaneous or grass-roots reaction to just one cop-kills-felon video (there are a dozen such videos per month on sites such as liveleak com, showing the deaths of felons of all colors ) then the media have succeeded in fooling you, in hiding the hand of their string-pullers in provoking this chaos. If you believe the mass media ‘justification narrative’, you’ve been played.

This conversation hits very close to where I live.
I have a written “100 Year Survival Plan” guiding my infrastructure and skill development program that is intended to keep my family even if all outside inputs fall away. The 12th (final) metric recognizes that none of it happens or can be sustained without knowledge, and knowledge is fragile. Look at how quickly we Americans have forgotten many of what were once the most common of skills: how to butcher and dress animals; how to preserve the resulting meat without refrigerators and freezers; how to cook and bake on a wood stove, which includes an understanding of the varying burning and heat-producing qualities of various types of wood; how to fell trees and convert them into wood for building, wood for fencing, wood for heating, and wood for cooking; how to prepare and till the earth without gas-powered rototillers, which includes how to keep, care for, and feed draft animals; what to grow and how to grow livestock feed; how to select vegetables and fruits to improve their hardiness; how to save seed; how to save vegetables and fruit without refrigerators and freezers; how to graft; how to prune; how to discourage insects and predators that want to eat the crop; how to process grain into flour and cereal, and how to do that without electricity; how to build a root cellar, hay loft, and granary; how to make cloth, and clothing from it; how to birth children and nurture them without doctors and vaccinations and pre-made formulas and baby food; how to raise a barn or a house and keep them in good repair – just for starters.
The fund of practical knowledge assumed by Americans from our founding up through the mid-1900s was simply phenomenal compared to what we know today. As industrialization drew farmers to cities, and created a whole new economy based on the convenience of being able to purchase the products and services we used to have to provide for ourselves, our knowledge of how to keep ourselves alive, housed, fed, and clothed has dropped precipitously. Today, very few of us could survive six months on our own, let alone create a viable life from the work of our own hands and the knowledge stored in our own brains.
Enter Survivor Library, an online resource. Survivor Library has been dedicated for some years, now, to digitizing old books and technical manuals in the public domain that provide guidance on how to build pre-industrial tools and equipment, and how to rebuild the resources of early modernity. All of the books can be downloaded and printed out; or the whole current collection can be purchased on hard drive, blu-ray, or flash drive.
This mission description is from the site’s “About” page:
"There are many websites, books, videos and classes that teach ‘Survival Skills’. How to make water safe to drink. How to build a weather proof shelter from available materials. How to build a fire. How to operate in a tactical combat environment to neutralize raiders seeking your food supplies.
"All of them deal primarily with the immediate effects of a disaster and how to survive them. All of these are excellent skills to have. A year’s worth of food is an excellent way to help safeguard yourself and your family in the event of an emergency or a large scale disaster.
"Unfortunately many large scale disasters such as Solar or Nuclear EMP events, Pandemic disease or Cyber warfare could result in a collapse of what has become an increasingly fragile technological and industrial infrastructure. The collapse of that infrastructure means the likely death of the majority of the people affected. Some scenarios have expected death rates of as high as 90% within a few months.
"The Survival Skills most often taught and disseminated will get you through the immediate danger.
"Few if any of these resources focus on what happens afterwards beyond speaking of ‘planting a garden’.
"What happens AFTER…?
…"The factories are gone. The transportation system has stopped. Now it’s time to start planning for the long term, for your children and grandchildren.
"The infrastructure that crashed can’t be ‘turned back on’. The local power plant can’t be restarted when the coal it uses comes from several states away which was transported by trains which depended on diesel fuel refined in other states and delivered by pipelines which no longer function. The infrastructure is too complex to simply be switched back on.
"Tools and equipment and supplies can be salvaged for a while but will inevitably run out. There is only so much fertilizer stored in stores and warehouses. There are only so many batteries and flashlight bulbs in inventory. It will all run out in time and no one will be making replacements.
"Which means you will have to build a new infrastructure which can eventually replace what was lost.
…"Once the fuel runs out the cars and trucks stop do you know how to build a carriage to put behind a horse? Do you know how to make the tackle with which to attach the carriage TO the horse? There are books on that. There are books on building sailing vessels and steamships. Books on how to build steam engines to put in steamships.
"The library contains thousands of books on technologies that can be produced by most reasonably skilled craftsman using tools not as sophisticated as what can be found in many modern home workshops.
"The Library is broken in many different categories. Some are very broad. Some are more specialized.
"All of the books are scanned copies of the original book stored in PDF format. That makes it possible to both read the book and, if desired, to print it.
"As the library has grown over time we’ve tried to cover both the simplest, more basic self sufficiency skills such as growing food and raising livestock through the most advanced and sophisticated technology of the time such as aeroplanes and communications systems like telephone and telegraph.
"Where there books on Industrial processes, methods, formulas, techniques we included those as well. Even the more advanced technologies of the periods are within the reach of people starting from scratch. Steam engines may seem primitive to most modern people but they powered the industrial revolution in much of the world well into the 1900s.
"Basic knowledge of chemical formulas and processes are recorded in books from these periods ranging from the most basic industrial chemical needs through household materials in common use.
"The Library in it’s entirety is a compendium of the Technological and Industrial Knowledge of the 1800 through early 1900s.
“It is the knowledge needed to rebuild a technological and industrial infrastructure from scratch when the modern infrastructure ceases to function.”
No one can master every old skill or knowledge. But each of us have areas of personal interest, and areas of mental inclination that we can enhance with resources dating back. I have thick binders of key materials printed out from this site that cover specific areas of my 12-metric plan. They help inform my work, and can inform and equip future generations of my family with knowledge essential to self-sustaining on this bit of land for the next century.
Everyone can develop both an electronic and a paper library of “lost knowledge” that we or our children might need to rediscover some tomorrow. I think everyone should.
I also think personal libraries ought to contain books on culture, history, and classical past and current fiction, because those are slowly being purged out of print, and many of them are deeply embedded with a sense of personal responsibility, integrity, and perseverance that seems out of step with our emerging post-modern ethos. (Post-modernism is not a long-term survival strategy; it cannot exist apart from an urbanite view of the world, and urbanism doesn’t survive without cheap energy.)
IMO, Survivor Library is one excellent source from which to curate a set of resources for what to do to prepare for and thrive in the “after.” Explore the library here: http://www.survivorlibrary.com

Just to expand a little on my comments above…

FWIW, I was banned from ZH a couple years ago. They had some ridiculous article that was way over the top on some type of infection. I can't remember the details because it's been so long. I'm a physician and commented (accurately) that the article was hyperbole and did not make sense medically. I thought my comments were fairly benign as I was simply stating fact. I finally concluded they simply did not like me contradicting them. And from this it made me think they have a narrative & agenda themselves. Don't get me wrong I'm furious about the censorship that is occurring with social media & the internet. I also like ZH (however I read their articles now with a jaded eye as they have a tendency towards hyperbole, and I have my underlying suspicions of a hidden agenda). I'm all about seeking truth whatever that truth may be. Having said all that it's a bit ironic ZH is playing the censorship victim card when they have actively censored people like myself for years who disagreed with their content.

This is standard fare for ZH. They specialize in conspiracy theories and apparently don’t do fact checking. Your “underlying suspicions” are well founded.

Zero hedge, like many things, looks nothing like its infant form. I can’t remember which site first drew me to the other but I do recall thinking both Chris and “Tyler” were incredibly bright people who formerly worked “on the inside” but had become alarmed and disillusioned and felt compelled to warn the world. As Chris and many others have pointed out, criticizing a site for pushing “conspiracies” is getting exponentially ironic in a world where so many things are not only a lie but a criminal endeavor blessed by someone in public power While I have seen a growth in anger, name calling and other non productive acts on ZH, it seems mostly in its commentary and sadly, this seems to be happening everywhere as things continue to unravel. Like others I am much more alarmed by the inconsistent and hypocritical assault on the first amendment and have little faith in monster internet monopolies in bed with the state telling us what we should hear

I checked out the library and WOW
It is amazing
Easy to use for sure.
What an achievement.
Thank you

I have to admit that I was NOT ready when I first read this man’s material some 12 years ago. I found him absolutely delightful in this podcast. You two had the same smile I had this weekend when I turned last falls compost. I love making compost and plan a no till garden now. I use compost on my fruit trees, on everything. I am so happy with the results that no longer will I till my garden. I haven’t planted this year because I expanded my garden and I can’t work on my garden because of the Cabin build so I thought this year and next I would really get the garden area in great shape for a full time farmer and farmer wife. I will start our greenhouse and have finished this summer so that gets organized and ready for seeds to germinate and grow so I can actually plant quickly when the ground is over 70 degrees for real. I think June 10th is a better planting time than June 1st and planting a mature growing seed will just explode in the heat of the fresh layer of compost and give us great food about 8 weeks later. Next year we will do a dry run and plant a small garden so we understand how our garden site will produce. We will keep records. We want to take off and plant a new plant when we do to double our production. We will weigh for instance the potato’s, and lettuce and all plants after taking it off so we know how many of things we need to plant to ensure a proper pantry for four people and hopefully extra’s if we have some. Plus to extend the season. Anyways, all this to acknowledge the smile and great pride you both show today. Back to Kunstler, and this podcast. This is the reason I have tried hard to get my biases out of the way. I didn’t like him 12 years ago, wasn’t ready for him but I am ashamed that I felt this way because I could sit and listen to him for hours just musing about things and talking chickens, compost and food and how the world will evolve. It will for sure but I want a peaceful transition. This was great, thank you. We do change folks but it takes work, education and a willingness to enjoy each person for who they are. I did a disservice to Adam and Chris at one time, and I may have caused harm but, I hope the me today is helping in some small way to apologize to them my immaturity. It was just a place I was in that didn’t quite understand the message. I’m still that way, I still have my own ideas on some things but, I will admit I was wrong because I was and so how do you fix this? You just fix it. Peace…I love the smell of shit, skunks, the violence of coyote’s tearing a calve through the gap under a fence, all of that. It’s a freedom I love and I am going into this soon and to say I am happy doesn’t come close to how my whole body accepts this world so strongly. And Sparky, I get to do this with my Lady, my house menace Boston Terrier, and my new two Rottweilers to protect my happiness along with Mrs. Smith and her Man Wesson. Peace

Thank you VTGothic
this is great

Yep, some questionable articles. “Specializing in conspiracy theories” is a pretty broad, inaccurate brush. I mean, they do carry plenty of PP articles, and we know that sight is centered on conspiracy theories, right?

I remember Asimov once had one of his characters state, “violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”
I think the same thing is true today of those who use the phrase: “conspiracy theory.”
Counter an argument with facts and evidence? Nope. All you need to do is utter the magic phrase: “conspiracy theory.” Poof. Your enemy is vanquished.
Does this approach work for you?

What I’m seeing is more of a voluntary decoupling and political sorting.
For example, maybe it’s better to read from the public library instead of ordering from Amazon.
Maybe it’s better to cut the cord and read more.
Maybe it’s better to minimize expenses as much as possible to maximize freedom.
Maybe it’s better to live somewhere where the Constitution is a priority instead of a funny joke.
Maybe it’s a good idea to learn how to bake your own bread. And on and on.
I agree though that assuming we were headed off a cliff right after 2008-2009 was premature. Nevertheless major economic defects were exposed then which were not resolved, and are now compounded by political and public health flaws. So now we have three noxious crosscurrents in 2020 instead of one.

Right now I’m nearly halfway through Kunstler’s current book (the one this podcast or blogpost is supposedly about). I cannot emphasize enough the importance of Part 1 (pages 7 through 43). It is critical subject matter for anybody who cares about the future. It will be ignored by many and rejected by others. But those of us who want to expand the Overton window will give it a good read - and it is certainly a readable book. By the way, if you haven’t yet read Kunstler’s The Long Emergency from 2005 it would still be a good idea to do so. Living in the Long Emergency is the sequel. Part 1 explains why -by and large - the predictions Kunstler made in 2005 didn’t play out as he expected (hint: it has to do with low interest rates making shale/fracking possible from an economic point of view).
I’m enjoying the whole thing, but I recommend that all of you at least read Part 1.

Thank you!
I so resonate with your summer plans. I have a similar list, with some different details, but aiming at the same garden goals for this and next years. I let my gardens go for a few years for several important reasons, and am now reclaiming them, while growing a small crop and residing the house.
My heart is all right here. The time is right now. And although I’m wasting away this glorious, hot, humid Vermont day, it’s to the intermingled sounds of bluegrass music, very chirpy wild birds, and the periodic chitter-chat of the visiting grand kids who came out of quarantine just yesterday.
Life is perfect right now.

I don't know. JHK has been beating this drum for a long time. I remember back in 2008-2009...the disintegration of social order and our way of life was coming soon.
oclisa, I remember back in 2008 too, explaining how JHK was a writer. Sure, he's a very good writer, and worthy of reading. But he is no engineer nor even a guy with a good grasp of the basics of history or economics. Hell, even just a cursory understanding of how humans moved from the stone age to the bronze age to the iron age makes it obvious future declines of oil will not stop technological development and somehow put us into a new primitive state, a "world made by hand". JHK shows a complete lack of real-world engineering knowledge. As I said, he's an artist, a writer. But the real cognitive dissonance on display here? JHK's factual predictions have been completely wrong since day one. Peak Oil? No. Resource shortages and famine? We are fatter than ever, deflation rules. World made by hand? 3D Printing. In this interview, he noted he couldn't believe how publishers where still around in this economy. Well, anyone can now publish a Kindle book for free. Publishers just don't even need to exist and are as legacy as JHK is. Rather than us "going back", new technologies like the internet actually save us resources and money and energy. JHK is trapped in his formative years, the 1970s resource wars, and cannot escape. I'm genuinely curious how bizarre the explanations will eventually get trying to explain away why JHK's predictions have failed. Anything cling to one's ideology. It's like all those the crazy paths of the planets conjured within heliocentrism. Let me make a humble suggestion: Maybe, just maybe, JHK's predictions are wrong because the ideas and beliefs that generate them are wrong?  

It has always been a long emergency, and always will be. Just not for everyone.