John Michael Greer makes a really important provocation. He begins explaining a few things about the current world that everybody not living in a hole already knows:

  • Our current industrial society was just a non repeatable huge stroke of luck, made possible by access to an immense supply of cheap, highly concentrated fuel that took million years to produce, and was worth extracting (same theme of Never mind the debt! What matters is EROI)

  • Replacing fossil fuels and keeping the current model of industrial civilization is effectively impossible.

  • The only viable alternative is to decrease our energy use, per capita and absolutely, to levels maintainable over the long term on renewable sources.

  • Since this hasn’t happened so far, partly due to “economic abstractions such as the free market would suspend the laws of physics and geology for their benefit”, the only path left is decline and fall.

You won’t die. You’ll just have a hard time, forever. Unless…

Nothing new so far (unless, again, you were hiding in a cave). The really interesting thing is the next one that Greer says: many tend to believe that this “decline and fall” will be some sudden, quick catastrophe, but that is the least likely outcome. Instead, says Greer, both history and lots of current evidence tell us that it will take from one to three centuries to complete that decline and fall.

For some, including survivalists, this may be depressing. “No catastrophes, just a century long decline” means that there would be no global wars, no mass extinctions, no way to live sealed in bunkers full of canned foods without looking silly… but only because it’s almost certain that things will simply keep getting worse, just so slowly that nobody living today has big chances of seeing a steady improvement of his or her current living conditions.

In another sense, this is obviously good. As long as one gets to grip with reality, readjusting expectations and redefining priorities. As Greer puts it, the most important choice that individuals, families and communities have to make today is whether “to make the descent in a controlled way, beginning now, or to cling to their current lifestyles until the system that currently supports those lifestyles falls away from beneath their feet”. Or, in one sentence, “Collapse now, avoid the rush”.