The crash of Iceland's three banks five months ago has been something of a curiosity; a tiny, exotic island ran up debts many multiples of its GDP and they will never be repaid. The banks were guaranteed by the government – this is no simple bank default, but a sovereign default, wrecking their currency and blocking imports as they have no way to pay. However it appears that the U.K. is about to follow them over the edge of the sovereign default abyss ... and the United States may not be so far behind.
Economy, Ecosystem, Energy; the triumvirate of collapse as defined by Burgundy – appears to be heading straight at us at an ever accelerating pace. We're liable to come to a point very soon where our choices are to completely change ... or fade away.
I was reading a bit on Iceland's implosion, seeing the signs of it starting here, and wondering where it's going to take us. A paradigm change to be sure, but what will it be?
(And to think this diary was in the throw away pile for five months.)
2008 was in some ways a hard year for me; occasionally sleeping out doors because I had nowhere else to go, just barely enough money coming in to get me from one place to the next, to say nothing of servicing debts or being able to really live independently, and our shoddy health care system trying to kill me. I diaried through thicker, thicker, and thickest, and now I probably have the making of a good book as well as a three man renewable energy consulting firm that appears to be about to take off like a rocket.
If I weren't aware of that triumvirate and I had just happened upon some business that put me back into the six figure income range I might be tempted, if I had my head entirely in the sand, to take up consumption again as a way of life. I could get the thirty inch display for my Mac Mini, replace the Mini itself with a full sized Mac, then get on the net with it and buy plane tickets to somewhere warm, pick up one of those 1970 – 1972 Dodge Darts I so love, and drive it back here before there was too much salt on the roads. Those days are long gone ...
As I've traveled about New England I've picked up the occasional hitch hiker and from these interactions I've learned a bit about the various intentional communities in the area.
Some of them are intentional communities of one. The Dragon House's owner, Mr. Witch Vortex, has hand crafted a wonderful, whimsical home built around an old oak tree. Living quarters are the shingled area to the right and the flowing, slant sided shed, purpose built to give the sense of a serpent's body's motion, contains his wood supply.
The retreat cabin at Sirius, built into the side of the hill, is available for those wanting peace, quiet, and isolation. I can't locate photos of the main house but it's gigantic – thirty or more feet tall, huge hardwood floored octagon meditation hall in the center of the second floor, and balconies all around. The next time I'm in Massachusetts I'll go back and photograph it in more detail.
A little ways down the road from Tannery Falls, which is arguably the most dramatic waterfall in Massachusetts ...
You'll find Starseed Healing Sanctuary and Retreat Center, a quarter square mile of woods, fields, and curious stone sculptures everywhere you turn.
We approached the owner's house unannounced with the first snow of the season falling. Right behind us and equally unplanned were a couple from Massachusetts, a dentist and an alternative medicine practitioner. We'd meant to just poke our noses in to find out the rental rate for the retreat hall; conversation, herb tea, and a plate of cheeses from an earlier gathering fueled two hours of discussion.
Other, less happy situations are spontaneously arising elsewhere, like Sacramento's tent city. Des Moines, Iowa, ever a forward looking community, has found a pretext to bulldoze a little shurburb that popped up along the riverbank.
The predictions I see are that housing prices are going to drop 80% and that somewhere between a sixth and a third of all housing will go empty due to a combination of economy, heating/cooling, and transportation costs. We're going to have an awful time of it and some of this is going to stem directly from the propping up of zombie banks.
A house is, to a bank, an asset. If it enters foreclosure and stands empty with a book value of $200,000 that is better for their balance sheet than having it sold off for the $40,000 it'll bring post crash. The bank's management still cling to the idea that prices might rise again ... and the alternative is their doom.
So here we stand, a people with a state that has all but failed. We can't get health care. A sixth of us can't find employment. A fifth of us are in homes that are already valued at less than the mortgage. Going concerns blow apart not due to bad management or bad prospects, but simply due to the fact that their bank pulls their credit in order to avoid their day of reckoning. Property taxes will fall, the roads and schools will decay, and very shortly the lack of investment in new gas and oil production will cause energy prices to turn sharply higher even as purchasing power declines due to the devaluation of the dollar.
We need a new path forward. We've torn the family unit to shreds with the concept of divorce as a profit center. We're spread to the winds instead of walking distance from relatives. Homes have ballooned from eight hundred square feet to two or three or four times that size while the occupancy has dwindled. Corporate agriculture interests claw at the few remaining smallholdings, clinging to the concept of growth and heedless of the harm they cause, much like the banks putting people out rather than settling for the actual post bubble value of a home.
Bruce Stirling provides a vivid description of post collapse life in his political thriller Distraction. Some people have remained within the tattered, stressed 'system' but many of them are simply dispossessed. Those that society has discarded burn their ID and credit cards, join prole mobs, and hit the road. I very much liked the idea of this sort of mobile, tribal structure but I thought it just artistic license. Dmitry Orlov's Reinventing Collapse confirms that something like this does happen in the real world when an empire collapses. His advice to nomads? Be from two different places, so as to be able to claim a home no matter where you happen to be in any given moment.
I'm curious to hear what others are seeing and thinking about the changes we face. There are a lot of folks trying to figure out how to hang on to their place on the sinking ocean liner. I personally got knocked off twenty one months ago when I got sick and even though I'm again bringing in a bit of money I can hardly stick my head in the sand after a year and a half of absorbing the information found on places like The Oil Drum and The Automatic Earth. There just isn't any 'normal' left for me to go back to, even if I was inclined to do so.
(UPDATE: Folks like the Dragon House so here are some further views. Enjoy.
Sun dial - the only time piece on the property:
Snow depth gauge:
Heating and some cooking here
I wrote this diary about life in rural Iowa post collapse - it's called Homesteading the 21st Century. If you like this diary, in a stomach churning sort of way, I believe you'll also enjoy that one and it should leave you in a better mood.)