We believe it is better to prepare for an unpleasant possibility today than meet it unprepared tomorrow. The unpleasant possibility is an infrastructure collapse. Our efforts are unlikely to prevent a collapse but, hopefully, mitigate some of its effects.
Our society is very dependent on a very complex infrastructure. A worst case collapse scenario would result in a major global atomic war and a nuclear winter. Since we can find little to mitigate such a scenario we will consider a bad case scenario. A bad case scenario for the results of an infrastructure collapse is almost nothing coming from more than 50 miles away for an extended period of time, possibly years. Less than half the population of industrial countries is likely to survive such a collapse.
People will need different information, tools and skills to survive in a post-collapse environment. Few people in developed countries have these skills. The primary objectives of the postCollapse organization is providing this information and the information needed to develop these shills.
We intend to mitigate the effects of an infrastructure collapse by:
identifying skills, knowledge and tools that will be needed in a post collapse community,
collecting, organizing and refining relevant information,
disseminating this information.
Much of this work would be relevant and useful in less traumatic circumstances. Most of it is also relevant to a longer term goal of supporting a sustainable society.
To see why we believe a collapse is not only possible but probable see reasons for a collapse. Links to other web sites considering a potential collapse are also found there.
This website (postcollapse.org) deals with objectives, background, and organization.
A companion web site PostCollapse.info posts the results of our work. This work will be organized into projects. Projects will find out and explain:
How does one make something? ,or
How does one do something?
without our current infrastructure support.
The make something or do something will vary from project to project. Posting the information, or where to find it, on the website will make it easy for people to find and make copies for their own use.
Most projects will only require searching available sources and sorting out their results. Some projects will, however, require design and/or experimentation. Most of the somethings will be practical like making basic tools or growing medicinal herbs. However, we will also post some things, like making musical instruments, that could provide enrichment for an isolated post-collapse community.
Some initial projects will focus on developing a list of the important somethings. For example: What is needed to operate a farm? What is an alternative for each essential thing unlikely to be unavailable in a post-collapse world? Posting a list of difficult problems can possibly get some creative people thinking about them, and maybe finding answers to these problems.
The dictionary definition of infrastructure is: “The underlying foundations or basic framework”.
The term as used here means: Everything that is needed to get things from where they originate to where they are used. The infrastructure includes:
- not electricity, but all the generators and wires and transformers and things needed to get it to your wall plug and your light switch.
- not water, but all the pipes and pumps and things needed to get it to your faucet.
- not food, but all the farm machinery and roads and trucks and things needed to grow it and get it from the farmer's field to your grocery store.
- not gasoline, but all the pumps and pipes and refineries and trucks and things needed to get it from the ground to the farmer's tractor or your car.
- not your telephone, but all the things needed to connect it to other telephones.
A variety of natural, technical, economic, political, ecological or pandemic events could trigger major infrastructure damage or an infrastructure collapse. Such events are becoming more probable. Furthermore, the increasing complexity of the infrastructure makes it more likely that damage to one part of the infrastructure will affect other parts of it. See reasons for a collapse for information on this.
Project coordinator's note: I am concerned for my family, my friends, myself and the society at large. I don't know if I will have to deal personally with an infrastructure collapse, but I think it is highly likely that it will be a problem for my children and grandchildren. As part of my work on postcollapse.org I intend to teach those I value useful post collapse skills. Such skills will increase their chances of survival. How concerned you should be is for you to decide.
My wife thinks a pandemic will be the most likely cause of an infrastructure collapse. The dieoff.com web site focuses on oil shortages as a cause. I believe a combination of other problems is more likely to trigger it.
Most post-collapse communities will probably need to defend themselves in the period after a collapse. However, I don't believe this should be our primary focus. In the longer term, concern for their citizen's welfare and building a sustainable environment and culture will be more important.
PostCollapse.org is a collection of volunteers doing projects. We are tied together by common cause and a couple of web sites. The cause is doing things today that can help people in post-collapse communities survive and prosper. This web site (postcollapse.org) is used to provide background, outline objectives and coordinate activities. A companion web site postcollapse.info is used to post information generated or discovered by our projects.
Each project should address a problem likely to face post-collapse communities. Projects might include: “Instructions for growing a medicinal herb garden” , “Design for an automotive gasifier” (gasifiers use wood chips, charcoal or other biomass to run internal combustion engines), “Extracting bio-diesel from rapeseed” or “how to build and use a root cellar”. As an example of a project see making ropes example.
Projects will be grouped together on the web sites by the problems they address. We call these groups of problems problem areas. Several groups may be working on projects in the same problem area. Example: In the gasifier project area one group could working be on refining the design of a wood burning gasifier, while a second group is investigating the Scandinavian literature on gasifiers. Grouping projects in this way should make finding information easier and facilitate sharing ideas and lessons learned.
We initiate a problem area when we recognize a problem for which a solution seem attainable. The initial effort will be formulating a problem statement. Posting the problem statement on the web site creates a postcollapse.org problem area.
The first project for most problem areas will be a preliminary assessment. This consists of locating, organizing and posting on the web site readily available information on the topic. A preliminary assessment is intended to give an overview of initial problem status for those considering a project. This has been done for a few problem areas. As more information is uncovered these assessments should be updated. See below for a list of current project areas and postcollapse.info for current information generated by projects. At this time we are just beginning so there is only limited information on the postcollapse.info website. Hopefully we can find volunteers having or willing to learn relevant expertize to flesh out most project areas. Do any of the project areas interest you?
Most post-collapse efforts will start from a community point of view or “What will be needed in a community?”. Individuals, families or even extended families will find it difficult to even survive let alone prosper in a post-collapse environment without the support of a larger community. A diversity of skills will be needed to generate the surpluses needed to survive bad years, maintain independence, maintain useful knowledge and provide some richness of culture. This diversity can only be supported in a larger community. This will be even more true in the years shortly after a collapse when additional overhead in extra time and energy will be needed to defend the community, develop new skills, learn old ones and find new ways to do things. Even with the kind of information we hope to make available on our web sites, local conditions may require considerable innovation, experimentation and the resources to find adequate solutions. See community for more on this.
After the turbulent period following a collapse most post collapse communities are likely to have a lot in common with preindustrial communities. Many pre-industrial skills will be useful and important again. There are, however, important differences.
We have learned a great deal since those historic times that could be of use to such communities.
Existing products of our industrial culture will remain. Many of these will be useful at least until they are used up, wear out or fail. Such products will also be a source of useful materials like metals and glass.
The initial social and cultural framework will be quite different. The people will not have grown up in a preindustrial culture. Many will have difficulty learning new skills as well as changing attitudes, expectations and habits developed in a pre-collapse culture.
Let us consider a bit of what this might mean. The best designs for a blacksmiths shop or wood-fired kiln could take advantage of lessons learned in the last century as could herbal medicine and a large number of other things. Some of the new and better ways to do things are being tested and used in third world countries. This kind of knowledge could be most useful to a post-collapse community.
We have also learned useful things by studying how other cultures have done things. For example, the native American techniques for growing corn in dry areas could be useful where large-scale irrigation systems fail, as knowing how to build a Greenland kayak could be very useful in coastal communities.
Some industrial products will remain useful; other products could be made useful by modifying them to work without things from remote locations. For example, gasoline vehicles and farm machinery can be modified to run on locally available, or locally producible, materials like wood chips (see gasifiers), bio-methane or ethanol. Things that are no longer useful will yield useful materials like steel.
In a post-collapse environment there will be a shortage of traditional resources like draft animals for plowing and moving heavy loads. It will take years to breed enough animals for this kind of work. During this period solutions such as gasifiers to keep old equipment running will be important.
The time following an infrastructure collapse is likely to extremely turbulent. Since cities and their suburbs are the most dependent on the infrastructure for necessities, large numbers of people will flee these unsustainable environments. Some suggestions on how to survive the the collapse and turbulent periods are found in turbulent period. Since we can find few things that could help in this turbulent environment our primary focus will be on the needs of communities either after this initial turbulent period or less affected by it.
We need help on a wide variety of projects. Only a few project areas require special skills. Take a look at help wanted; you can probably find tasks to do that you will find both interesting and useful. There is even a good chance that you can find something that you, and possibly your friends, would really enjoy doing. We are just beginning and can use as much help as we can get. A few examples follow and more information is found on the project area web pages.
People are needed to find, collect and organize information on a wide variety of subjects. At minimum we would like to post a list of the most appropriate books and web sites for setting up and learning each of the skills likely to be needed in a post-collapse community. How does one set up and learn to use a blacksmith shop? How does one preserve and prepare foods without refrigeration? How can one pump water without petrochemicals or electricity?
If you are into gardening consider a medicinal herbs garden. We need to learn what can be grown in various climates and how to grow it. We need people to grow seeds and share both their knowledge and their seeds with other herbal gardeners. Getting useful wild herbal plants to grow in a garden could be an interesting challenge. Maybe you could work with someone knowledgeable in botany to identify and collect the wild plants and plant seed, and someone else to process the plants into herbal medicine. If you have or can get more growing space you might consider growing oil crops for someone experimenting with making bio-diesel.
If you are into automotive stuff, possibly you and some of your friends would like to convert an old vehicle to run on an experimental gasifier (burning wood chips or charcoal instead of gasoline). Designs that work well need to be documented. Work on converting agricultural oils to bio-diesel is also needed as well as work on ethanol conversions. [Maybe a smart lawyer can figure out how small ethanol projects can be done without getting in trouble with the government.] People with engineering skills are needed to consult on the design of equipment. Note that the technology to run automotive equipment without petrochemicals can also be used for engines driving electric generators or water pumps.
Many hobby activities could result in substantial contributions. If you are making things as an artist or craftsman, ask how your skills could be used to make useful things with limited resources and how you might teach others to do so. For example a fairly inexpensive and relatively low-power table top robotic router could make a lot of essential things as well as doll houses or model railroad parts. Someone who had and knew how to use such a tool would be welcome in most post-collapse communities. If you are retiring you might consider a hobby that would both give you something interesting to do and contribute to the future.
We could also use help on improving the web site and on reviewing, rewriting and editing material.
Possibly the best approach is to look through our project area information and use your imagination.
You could also help by referring people you think might be interested to our web sites or posting links to our web sites.
- - - - Updated: 7 Aug 08