John Michael Greer: If the Four Horsemen Arrive, Offer Beer

"We have a national mythology that limits are always bad. In fact, we have a national phobia of limits," wryly observes John Michael Greer: author, historian, conservationist, and proprietor of the popular weblog The Archdruid Report. "We need to get past that."

We need to come to terms with the fact that we don’t have limitless energy, we don’t have limitless resources, we don’t have limitless time. All of these things are specific. They function within a finite world. And engaging in hand waving about well, human ingenuity is limitless. No, it isn’t. Okay, it may be immense, but it’s not limitless.

And so getting past that fetish of limitlessness strikes me as the most important thing. All of us are going to die – each individual person listening to this show and everybody else as well. That’s a limit we can’t get past. And you’ll notice that people who actually face that limit and say okay, I get this, I have a finite amount of years on this earth and them I’m going to die. What am I going to do with the time that I have? Those are the people that we call mature. Those are the people we call wise. Those are the people who go out and have a life instead of just frittering their time away.

I think we need to do that as a society. We need to say nobody guaranteed America its particular place in the sun. Nobody guaranteed that it would continue to hang together, or that this Constitution – which I think is a very smart document – will continue to function when it’s being ignored by almost everybody. We need to accept that the world’s not functioning in our favor, that we have to function within realistic sets of limitations within which everything should operate. And then we might actually be able to get off our duff and do something creative with the time we have on this earth.

If you’ve ever seen a fifty-year-old man trying to pretend that he’s seventeen, it’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing to everybody and it rarely ends well. That’s what America is right now. It’s two hundred something years old. It’s not an adolescent anymore. It needs to ditch the bright red car, stop trying to pick up teenage chicks, stop the binge drinking, and actually deal with the fact that there’s only so many years left. You need to do something useful with that time and not go around with everybody else – you know, China and Europe -- just rolling their eyes and trying to pretend that they don’t notice how we’ve combed our hair forward over our bald spot.

So, then, what does using our time wisely look like?

Probably two-thirds of the energy we use in this country is wasted. Those of our listeners who have been over to Europe know that they don’t live in caves over there. They get by very comfortably on a third of the energy use per person than we use over here. We could easily -- easily -- decrease our energy use over a ten to twenty year period to European levels. And once we did so, we’d find that a lot of our international problems would go away in a hurry.

Okay, so the first thing, as we used to say back in the day, back in the 1970s and early 1980s when the whole appropriate tech movement was a growing concern, weatherize before you solarize. You first of all conserve what you have, then you can look at converting to renewables to do things with it.

What would we do that would be sensible? Get out of the empire business. If you do it voluntarily, as Britain demonstrated, you can maintain a lot. If it’s dragged from your cold dead hands, that’s not particularly helpful to you. We would be looking at rebuilding – we used to have the best rail system in the world. At this point, it would be a disgrace to a collapsing Banana Republic. We could fix that relatively easily. We’d provide inexpensive, safe, comfortable, easy rail travel all over the country at a tiny fraction of the energy we now waste on superhighways and air travel. I could go on for a week talking about things that we could do if we were actually going to be reasonable about making the best possible use of the energy we have left. 

I would point out that one of the ways we can look at this is what an exciting time this is to be alive. What an astonishing opportunity we have to create – with our own lives, with our own choices – to literally shape the future ahead of us. 

So what I advise is that people start by looking at their own lives and saying okay, how is my life going to change as energy constraints continue to squeeze in, and then get ahead of the change instead of being dragged along behind it. Get ahead of it, give yourself some space, work through the learning curve picking up the skills you’re going to need. Do it now, so that by the time it’s necessary, you’re comfortable with it, you know what you’re doing.

You’ve already insulated your place. You may have a solar hot water system in place if you can afford one. You’ve torn up some of the grass in back and turned it into a vegetable garden so that you can stretch out staples. You know how to cook from scratch so you’re not dependent on the vast corporate structure. You maybe started developing some tradable skills. You’ve got a little basement workshop where you’re doing something you can barter with your friends. You’re brewing beer in the basement, you know? That’s actually my number one suggestion for a lot of people – learn how to brew beer. If the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse knock on your door and you can offer each of them a cold one, they’re your friends.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with John Michael Greer (46m:45s):

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Your conversation was great.  I had the pleasure of seeing Greer put on a couple presentations last summer.  Your conversation reinforced my impression that he has a first rate mind and very active imagination.  I particularly appreciated the stress he placed on conservation as the primary means of getting through the energy crunch.  That's something I mentioned a few times here with nearly non-existent response.  The more thought we can put into that, the better off we will all be.


If you keep putting this quality of discussion on this site you will never get rid of me.

Guilty as charged. I hold both visions of the future in my head at the same time. The Limits to Growth report has my full attention as have the prognosis of Prof James Lovelock.

On the other hand I have great hopes that our energy crunch is in imminent danger of being solved forever. Am I certain? No. But the die is loaded. What I am certain of is that if we do not grasp at any floating object that find, we will drown.

If we do not find another energy source Blind Freddy can see that the 7 billion people who depend on the 10 to 1 conversion ratio of oil into food are going to die slowly of malnutrition. There is no middle ground.

You can listen to Dr. Jorgen Randers of the Limits to Growth speak here. Interesting forcast. He says that I am wrong. Feeling lucky?

Re-listening to Prof Rander's talk I heard him say what will save civilization is that there will be a much smaller population. He and I are back in alignment.Are you going to be a part of that "much smaller population"?

That was a really cool dude. Very enjoyable Chris.
Meaning no disrespect at all but this came to me as I watched, laughed, and thought I would just share.

Enjoy Folks


I like the truth with a positive attitude.

A thought on technology saving us. I am guessing most technology is a result of finding different  ways of using our natural resources. Once we use up the easy to get natural resources it will be really hard to create anything new.

When I was a boy these things were memento's that were used to teach us children. It was so common place that retailers used S&H Green Stamps that women collected, and then purchased items with. I suppose because it became ingrained in the lexicon of society and was well understood. Later this became advertisement for $.10 off coupons (as an example) clipped from news papers today and honored by all food retailers.
The system is in place, it works, and regardless of your wealth, rationing favored no one group as all paid the same price (for the sake of this up-lifting attempt we'll just imagine the rich didn't influence someone with under the counter cash for more coupons). Folks, it is coming, will happen, and there will be those who bitch and scream about this every day. However, 80% of the people will move along so long as we have a Plan and can see its development. So, optimistic for a future using less and getting more out of it? You bet are my feelings.

Mr Greer, is one cool daddio! I dug this dude as the second listening was better than the first.


Great interview!  Why not add him to your stable of contributing writers?
I particularly liked the last line of the interview: "Read less", it says. And before that, get out and do something useful…Ok, I got it, time to muck out the chicken house & fertilize the raspberries!

"12 - If you have any complaints, questions, or difficulties regarding your War Ration Book, consult your local Ration Board." Wherebye you will immediately be put in uniform and shipped to the front lines. LOL! or shot on sight. LOL
I wanted to do something but I hurt my back yet again so I decided to show how we managed to do so much more with so much less. Instead of War Ration Book they will be called, Save the planet and go Electrical Book or insert what you want.

Another favorite:

"You also serve – you who stand behind the plow, pledged to feed the Soldier, the Worker, the Ally, and, with God's help, all the hungry victims of this war!  You also serve – you who farm, you who pray and sacrifice.  You'll feed the World even if it means plowing by lantern light, and harvesting by hand – even children's hands – even if it means putting up the trucks and going back to covered wagons once again…"

Bring it on!!!


I really enjoyed this interview. He really thinks and sees outside the box.  Lots of wisdom . And yes, throw that TV out and you'll have lots of time to do stuff…creative and useful stuff.  Oh, that also means limiting time on the internet!!! That's another place where you can waste your time away.

Welllll, TV and Internet? Throw them out!!! Yuk!!! I watch sports and I read, that's basically my entertainment and work. How about I throw everything else out and just keep the cushions, TV, Internet, Radio and my Kindle?
Respectfully Given


What a wonderful, cogent podcast. Making great points with easygoing, comfortable dialogue, and profound but not complicated thinking. This is a prime example of the kind of dialogue that I wish was more mainstream, particularly in first world countries.
Why you might ask? Because we are so lucky, just by virtue of being born where we were born, that we have the luxury of being able to debate about "limits", and whether or not we want to accept such a concept in our lives. We are rich beyond comprehension, and our level of prosperity has all too often led us to the meaningless vaccuum that so many find themselves living in.

John Michael Greer is right, it is an exciting time to be alive. In facing and accepting our limitations, we have the catalyst needed to get us to shift gears, and re-evaluate that which make us happy. If nothing else, we owe it to all of the unfortunate second and third world people, who by virtue of where they were born, do not even have the luxury of talking about "limits", never mind deciding to do without. We owe it to them to be happy and thankful that we have a choice in how we live our lives. Let us choose to not squander our choices any more.



Jan, my kindred Sister, I think I love you! LOL…I enjoy everything you are about. Without question you cannot bullshit a warm and sincere heart. You have the warmth and the heart, and I just think of you as a voice of reason. Thank you
Maybe your biggest fan

…my Lady approved of this message (I'm Barrack Obama/Mitt Romney, and I approved this message) LOL


I speak for myself… I do find I sometimes overuse and waste a lot of time on these screens. I'm not ready to give them up either.  

Nervous Nelly, I watch very little TV. I spend allot of time reading, researching, and doing analysis as I am way behind the curve. I do agree with you for most everyone else though, especially children and teenagers. Never would my intent be to make a Lady defend her position, and if I did please accept my apologies.Back to my football game
No response is necessary
Respectfully Given

Great talk with John Michael Greer!
I can definitely recommend several of his books as excellent reading material including:

The Long Descent: A user's guide to the end of the industrial age

The Ecotechnic Future: Envisioning a post-peak world

The Wealth of Nature: Ecomonics as if survival mattered

I find his writings a bit more cerebral than Kunstler or Heinberg but also less apocalyptic. He envisions a catabolic collapse more in line with that of previous civilizations, ratcheting down over decades to centuries.


I hadn't realised that he had written the Long Descent which I read twice !!The other books are even better rated. Thanks for the tip Mark. I will definitely put those on my must read list ASAP.

Bob, thank you my kindred friend, for you wonderful compliments and support.  You truly know how to warm a girl's heart, and your lady is most fortunate to have such a nice man share her life with.I get so much enjoyment out of reading the comments of everyone on this site. It is a wonderful community of like-minded people, and each person offers nuggets of gold with their particular perspectives. I take something away from the dialogue each and every day. This is one reason why I can't give up the internet - I am not willing to do without all of these marvellous discussions & information (and warm fuzzies from Bob ). But then what we do here is not a time waster. It is life enhancing. The internet and TV are like anything in life that is used to excess without any real benefit. I love watching nature shows and documentaries, and "how to shows" like This Old House. Or the odd sports event, like those intense Canada vs. USA hockey games . Many programs benefit me and expand my horizons. The TV and Internet are simply tools at our disposal, and if they are used improperly, they can and do have negative ramifications.
As with most things in life, it comes down to self-discipline. You can own a TV and use it in a postive way, just as you can with the internet. Our society as it exists now is the epitome of lack of self-discipline, on many fronts. That we have not changed yet is because the consequences have not yet been severe enough. But we are headed down that path, and people better get off of their couches in a hurry or they are going to find themselves blindsided and woefully un-prepared for the changes that are coming our way. I pity those who are so addicted to their smartphones and all that texting & social media BS. They will truly suffer when that tap gets shut off…

Yes Jan, again you say so well.
I recently was asked by some neighbors if I wouldn't mind being our "Safe House" for issues that come up last minute. No problem. I do this because our future will have a breaking point, and I want all to react with a sense of calm and purpose, and NOT in a panic. This way we develop good practices right from the get, and the learning will have to come after the necessities have been gathered first. I will then spring the crash course again on these folks, be able to answer the questions, and to the non-believers I just must let go for the others to deal with. Anyways, I figure one calming voice is better than none in an emergency then we work out from there. I happen to believe most everyone has a good idea what is going on but the dots won't connect until a serious happening happens again as you suggest, and I wholeheartedly agree with.

I like very much our connection, go figure. Plus you like golf, HOCKEY, and History Channel, Discovery, etc…Get out of Dodge, you fit anywhere then. No surprise here. USA USA USA!!! LOL

This Greer dude is the BOMB!!!

Be Good my Friend