Take us to DEFCON 1

The US military defines its Defense Readiness Condition (DEFCON) levels as follows:

  • DEFCON 5 is normal readiness.
  • DEFCON 4 is above normal readiness.
  • DEFCON 3 is the air force ready to mobilize in 15 minutes.
  • DEFCON 2 is all forces ready to fight in 6 hours.
  • DEFCON 1 is the maximum state of readiness and means nuclear war is imminent or has already started.

I have my own definitions that I use for my personal life.

I spent the first 50 years of my life at DEFCON level 5. That would be as a normal, fully in denial, culturally conforming, dopamine & status seeking, energy maximizing, member of a superorganism.

Then I had a stress related meltdown and while recovering stumbled on peak oil. After seeking and failing to find a good path forward other than population reduction, I wondered what else I was in denial about, and widened my field of view to include climate change, pollution, species extinction, unsustainable debt, etc., all of which I eventually came to understand are related and fall under the umbrella of human overshoot.

Now at DEFCON level 4, a realty based state of awareness, I began to think about making changes to my life, took a 6 month course on small scale farming, and did some volunteer work on a small organic farm.

Then the 2008 global financial crisis (GFC) occurred and I went to DEFCON level 3.

Confident that a collapse would occur within 10 years, I changed everything in my life. A new location where I’d be happy finishing my life, a simpler slower lifestyle, satisfying physical work, improved health, and thank goodness, Varki’s MORT theory to keep me sane with an explanation for the insanity all around me.

I also began to methodically plan and implement some preparations for a different world that I expected would arrive soon. The basic idea was to convert some retirement savings into things needed to survive and/or that might provide some joy in a harsher simpler world, and that won’t go bad, will never be cheaper, or better quality, or more available than today.

In hindsight I didn’t have a powerful enough imagination to predict that our leaders would loan into existence many trillions of dollars that can never possibly be repaid, to avoid having to acknowledge overshoot, and to extend and pretend business as usual a few extra years, at the expense of making our destination worse, but they did.

Then early in 2020 I saw the Chinese panicking over a virus before anyone here was discussing it, and I went to DEFCON level 2.

Now I got serious about completing most of my preps, which was an easy low stress exercise, because I already had a plan and simply had to execute it.

By the time the majority was scrambling, I was done, and completely calm and confident.

Today, two years into the pandemic, I’m seeing threats that have caused me to go to DEFCON level 1:

  • Many supply chains are broken and are getting worse, not better. This is a strong signal that our complex civilization is simplifying in unpredictable ways, as predicted by David Korowicz.
  • Energy shortages have emerged simultaneously in multiple strategically important regions. This is a big deal because fossil energy underpins everything our species depends on to survive. Net energy peaked a few years ago and we have been on a plateau made wider by unprecedented money printing, but once we fall over the edge I believe the decline will be much faster than the few percent per year that an unstressed geology and monetary system would deliver. I do not know if we’ve already fallen off the plateau, but I do know it will happen soon, and when it does, the changes will be profound, rapid, and painful. Regardless if the current energy problems prove to be temporary, they are a serious threat to an already fragile economy, civil society, and war-free world.
  • The Chinese economy is showing signs of stress from excess debt similar to the west’s 2008 GFC. Our vulnerability to a sick China is much greater than most assume because everything we depend on is dependent on Asian manufacturing, and a functioning global shipping system, and a functioning global banking system. This time I doubt more debt will fix an excess debt problem.
  • There are worrying signals that our vaccination policy is failing with health risks for both vaccinated and unvaccinated increasing, and that the boosters everyone is counting on may not work.
  • The leaders of the majority of countries seem incapable of absorbing and integrating evidence to improve their Covid strategy. If they are incapable of effectively managing Covid, we can be confident they will not be capable of managing the much more complex and profound implications of declining energy and the economic contraction it will cause.
  • All paths lead to food and we are 3 missed meals away from civil disorder. The climate seems to have shifted a gear this year and I expect this will negatively impact agricultural yields soon. Energy shortages will also negatively impact food production and distribution. As will supply chain problems. As will more Covid problems. As will a global economic depression.

DEFCON level 1 does not mean I’m expecting the end of the world, but it does mean I intend to complete everything I can think of to prepare for what I think is coming, on the assumption that we are near the end zone, and that by the time our arrival is confirmed, it will probably be too late to do anything.

There’s nothing wrong with being prepared a little early. Especially when being late means it may be impossible to prepare.

Chris Martenson is thinking along the same lines and recently produced an excellent video explaining what’s happening around the world with energy.

45 thoughts on “Take us to DEFCON 1”

    1. It’s because the Delta variant is so contagious that there are still not enough people vaccinated, and not yet enough natural immunity acquired. Add to that not enough mask wearing.
      A “less deadly variant.” I have some doubt about that. Anyway, it’s mainly the above.


      1. “Not enough mask wearing”. Welcome, true believer!
        No reference to any studies, just assertions straight from your ass – where your peabrain rests.

        The fact that 2 years later, the true believers continue to spout stupidities like this should remind us that yes, most people are incapable of reason.


        1. Look in the mirror. You are likely to fit the description you gave me. That is often the case among people with your attitude.


  1. Our leaders are lying about everything that is important.


    Because when growth is constrained by peak net energy the only thing that keeps the system functioning is confidence enabled by genetic denial.


    We’ll begin with a Chair Powell comment from his September 22nd press conference:

    “If you look at the last two or three years before the pandemic hit, you saw, after a lot of long progress, you saw a really strong labor market. And you saw wages at the low end moving up faster than everywhere else. Something that’s great to see. We also saw the lowest unemployment rates for minorities… We saw a really, really healthy set of dynamics. And, by the way, we also — there was no reason why it couldn’t continue. There were no imbalances in the economy, and then along came the pandemic. We were not, there was nothing in the economy that looked like a buildup of imbalances that could cause a recession. So, I was very much thinking that the country would really benefit from a few more years of this. It would have been — so we’re all quite eager to get back to that.”

    This is somewhat confounding. If there were “no imbalances in the economy,” why then did the Fed resume QE in September 2019 – months ahead of the pandemic (with markets near all-time highs and unemployment at 50-year lows)? Federal Reserve Assets have ballooned $4.678 TN over the past two years (107 weeks), of which about $200 billion occurred prior to the Fed’s March 2020 crisis ramp up.


  2. Sabine Hossenfelder explains that the future of nuclear fusion is MUCH more pessimistic than a realist already assumes because fusion researchers deny the reality of how to calculate net energy.

    Population reduction it is then, voluntary or involuntary, we get to choose.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well that’s a thoroughly depressing watch – thanks Sabine.
      I guess the politicians ( there must be a few who understand) will let it run now because halting ITER may destroy the last vestiges of hope of those who are in limited denial of the energy problem and that may spread to those who are in total denial.
      I don’t think we get to choose Rob- it’s nature doing the choosing all the way down. Still as James would probably say 8 billion corpses – hell of an energy gradient for the smaller detritovores


    2. I know someone that works on ITER. It is a typical government con-job.
      The general manager is being accused of corruption for 10 years but he has connections up to the president of France so he will never be arrested.
      The many countries that contribute to the project launder money by delivering subpar components (pipes that are not round, electrical generators that need to be manually rewired etc).
      What is surprising to me is not the corruption, but the people that STILL believe in fusion (yet another religious belief despite the corruption of the priesthood of scientism).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A few days I was talking to a young friend who is a mechanical engineer that designs heavy machinery and he said:

    It’s getting pretty concerning. A local example is at work we’ve got just under 70 orders to fill this quarter and we can’t get parts to build them. I’m evaluating and approving alternates to our spec parts constantly these days and none of them end up being able to promise deliveries anyways. Seems like the world has run out of a ton of hydraulic components.

    It’s like the opposite of 2008, everyone wants to buy the products and there’s lots of money to buy them, but nothing is available. Of course when the interest rates catch up it’ll probably change.


  4. A very good post, thanks! I have been checking the MSM for reports about the energy crisis (and material shortages) and there is not (yet) much (UK lorry drivers are the exception). It seems nobody there has a clue of what is going on or at least not of the urgency and importance of it. Chris Martenson’s video is excellent, yes.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks to David Korowicz for these links…

    Skyrocketing power prices are forcing the vast network of Dutch glasshouses — the continent’s biggest — to go dark or scale back, threatening to cut supplies at Europe’s fruit and vegetable stalls and flower shops. Although small, the Netherlands is the world’s second-largest exporter of food by value, thanks in part to its high-yielding glasshouses that span some 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres)

    But heating these sprawling glass structures uses up to 3 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year, or about 8.2% of the country’s overall consumption of the fuel. Europe’s soaring energy prices are having a “massive impact” on the sector, said Cindy van Rijswick, a senior analyst at Rabobank. That’s driving some producers to cut back on lighting, end the growing season early or plan to start later next spring.

    “These are drastic measures that reduce production and yield and have major economic consequences for the companies,” according to industry association Glastuinbouw Nederland. “We cannot rule out whether consumers will also pay more for their vegetables, flowers and plants.”


    A German Power Plant Just Ran Out of Coal in Latest Energy Shock

    Steag GmbH closed its Bergkamen-A plant in the western part of the country this week due to shortages of hard coal, it said by email. The closure is the first sign that Europe may need to count on mild and windy weather to keep the lights on as the continent faces shortages of natural gas and coal is unlikely to come to rescue.

    Energy prices are soaring from the U.S. to Europe and Asia as economies rebound from a pandemic-induced lull and people return to the office. The shortage is so acute that China ordered its state-owned companies to secure supplies at all costs and Europe is burning more of its already depleted stocks of the dirtiest of fossil fuel, a move that may complicate climate talks next month.


    India is the latest country to face a severe power crisis that threatens to undermine its recovery from the pandemic, with authorities warning that power plants have run perilously low on coal.

    According to India’s power ministry, the 135 thermal power plants of Asia’s third-largest economy had an average of just four days of coal stocks as of Friday, down from 13 days of supplies in early August. Of the plants monitored daily, more than half have less than three days of stocks.


    The lights are going out across Kyrgyzstan.

    In a desperate measure designed to mitigate a looming electricity crisis, the authorities have this week resorted to pressuring public-facing businesses into refraining from using illumination at night.

    Shop windows will go dark, as will advertising hoardings. Routine inspections are being organized to ensure compliance. The blackout will affect streets too, plunging large sections of the capital, Bishkek, into obscurity.

    “In order to provide the population with electricity during the fall-winter period, engineers are forced to introduce restrictions on the lighting of secondary streets, advertising, shop fronts, cafes and other non-domestic customers,” the National Energy Holding Company said in a statement on September 29.



  6. Nordic power prices were five times higher in September than a year ago. That’s hitting everyone from power-hungry factories and miners, to students struggling with their bills. Inflation is rocketing.

    Europe’s northern corner can’t hide from the global shortage of natural gas and coal, with dwindling water reserves curbing the region’s most important source of electricity. Sweden is relying on a 52-year-old plant that burns oil to keep the lights on and a local utility is trying to convince industrial users to save energy as cold weather draws closer.

    “The combination of low Nordic hydro reservoirs and low European gas storage levels is creating a perfect storm, with high coal and carbon prices on top of that,” said Mats Persson, head of trading at Fortum Oyj. “With new power cables to Germany and the U.K., the big price variations we have seen in Europe are entering the Nordic system.”

    Norwegian hydro levels are at their lowest in more than a decade for this time of the year. While some rain arrived in the past few days, the situation in southwest Norway has been so bad that grid operator Statnett SF issued a warning to traders on Monday, saying the power balance stands at two on a scale where five means rationing. That corner of the country has the largest reservoir capacity and links to Germany and Denmark, as well as a new cable to Britain.



  7. Rob,
    I would be interested to hear more details on you preparations/life story.
    Without getting into personal details, maybe you can share what do you think is a good life and a good location? What were your preparations – food, water, psychological etc.

    Thank you!


    1. A few words about me here:


      Here’s what I’ve done about water.

      I’m on city water. I hope our reservoir will be ok for a while, although the glacier that feeds it will be gone in a few years, and no one seems to know the implications of this and whether the annual declining snow pack will be sufficient. My bigger concern is that my town is on the other side of a hill from the reservoir and therefore we depend on electric pumps. I think electricity will be ok here for a while because most of it is hydro, however I do expect reliability to drop as the diesel necessary to maintain the system becomes more expensive and scarce.

      In preparation, I reactivated the well on my property with an old fashioned hand pump. I have an identical spare pump in storage for parts.

      I have a large gravity fed water filter that can turn nasty water into safe water. The ceramic filters are simple, can be cleaned, and last a long time.

      I have a small portable gravity fed water filter that I use when hiking, and that can double for emergency use.

      Finally, I have containers for transporting and storing water.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Some years ago Clive Hamilton showed that as prices for oil went up, much more often than not, a recession followed. The duration of such recessions varied, but that they happened was predictable. As the price of oil, gas, and coal have soared, so too have the prices of everything else – as predicted by Clive many times over many years. There may be new bumps in the road [bigger than your shopping centre speed-bumps!!] that add to this result, but that only means it will be worse. No amount of $$$’s for the already wealthy will subvert this result.
    On an ad hoc basis, it is interesting that several young people have asked what kind of fuel economy my vehicle gets [58mpg or 4.8L/100km]. When told, they compare it to their own number with a note of despair – both in terms of the difference [usually triple or more], and in terms of their not being able to get rid of their current ride for something more efficient. Denial has more than one facet, and despair also shows up. Dealing with either can be paralyzing, particularly with a total blacklisting of anything that does not reinvent normal in terms of BAU by almost all media, governments, businesses, “educational” institutions, unions, and the vast majority of family and friends. “Onwards and upwards!” is the only allowable utterance.
    As John Greer points out, there is nothing anyone can do to change the coming catabolic collapse, but there may be those who can show others, through having already established a lifestyle that attempts to accommodate itself to such circumstances before and as they actually occur, how to survive when the planes stop flying, the trucks stop coming with groceries and everything else, and the electricity stops being predictable.
    As the never-ending cascade of leaves falling outside my window portend, winter is surely coming!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, I’ll have to look up Clive Hamilton.

      The economy makes much more sense when viewed through the lens of energy. If the price of oil goes up, then the amount we can spend on making ourselves productive goes down, which pushes incomes down, and the price of things made with oil, which is pretty much everything, goes up, resulting in a recession.

      Some day soon when we fall off the supply plateau, what used to be a cyclical recession, will become a permanent depression. And then we’ll wish we hadn’t created so much debt to deny reality. And everyone will say no one saw it coming.

      My motorcycle burns 3L/100km.

      I calculated the operating cost of my e-Bike, including replacing the battery after its expected 700 charge lifetime, and it appears to be more than 50% better than my motorcycle.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m at Defcon 2 more or less. Pretty well set up with water/food security. Spent the years since 2008 training in permaculture, learning to garden and can, also trained in emergency medical and firearms. Debt free at 40. Trying to move to Defcon 1 which for us is renovating a small cabin with wood heat in a rural area to be super-insulated and with some solar backup. Property is on water and backed up against conservation land. Unfortunately my wife and I are not in a position to retire until/unless things really go off. I have construction skills I can offer and started a side-hustle as a handy man, just in case – even though I’m a business owner. Can’t sell the current place in the city until the new one is done.
    If we get another year of BAU we should be positioned as well as we reasonably can.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well done, I’m impressed. I wish I was as aware as you at 40.

      I too have been building my handyman skills like small construction projects, masonry, appliance repair, computer refurb, auto maintenance, etc. I’m also working on food skills like canning, fermentation, baking, etc. Finally, I’m trying to stay healthy, have not seen a doctor for about 25 years and would like to keep it that way.


      1. It may have been JMG who said it, but masonry skills are something which have been continuously employable for about 5000 years – so it’s about the safest bet out there! https://bricklayingschool.com/

        I used to be able to find some of his videos on youtube. He has a system of making reusable mortar to practice with (no cement, just add water to practice with a trowel).

        It’s sure wild out there!


        1. Masonry is very satisfying work and is great physical exercise. When done you’ve built something that will last a very long time.

          It is very wild. People are behaving like animals before a Tsunami arrives.


      2. Thanks Rob for the info about your preparations!

        I agree about the water and as it happens, this summer I dug a hand well 4m deep. It’s not very productive but it would be enough for a short term interruption in electricity.

        The more important part is water for the garden – summer drought is quite common and the creek dries up in the summer. So I am buying a couple of big water tanks for rainwater.

        Since you are on the west coast, my best guess is that in 100 years the tribes inhabiting this area will mostly survive from pastoralism, not sedentary agriculture and absolutely not hunting/gathering (it will take thousands of years for the ecosystem to recover).
        So a good thing to try is to raise animals (chickens, goats) enough to provide survival food during shortages/famines. There are many farmers around this area (mostly cows, some sheep).


        1. The farm I assist is starting to struggle with water. It’s too dry in the summer when we need water and too wet in the winter when we’d like less water. We added a large pond for capturing surface water in the winter and spring which has helped. I built them a windmill with an air pump that aerates the pond to keep the water clean.

          We are vegetables and fruit only. I agree with you that having livestock is a good idea. There’s lots of wisdom in having a dense source of high quality nutrition that does not need refrigeration, self repairs, self replicates, makes manure for the vegetable garden, and uses grass as fuel.


        2. Like what you are doing. I have done it all and at 68 it is a constant task. Even here in the PNW (oregon) I have 6000 gal. of tanks for watering gardens in the summer. Just spent the day changing valves on them to good brass ones, the PVC ones degrade and leak after a few years. Also have to clean the tanks periodically because the rainwater going in (even after filtration) has enough organic matter to grow algae. I was thinking this morning (at 5:30 a.m.),as I was letting the chickens out of their coop, that I have not been away from my homestead/farm for a day in over 3 or 4 years. Farm animals don’t take care of themselves, either you do it or someone has to do it for you. There will be hunting for deer once there is collapse – until they are almost gone (and there will be a lot of them for a few years as there won’t be any cars hitting them). I’m sure deer and cougars will recover from humans quite nicely.
          I have a hand dug spring/cistern that supplies my home – only problem is that it needs to be filtered and UV sterilized (no one told the deer, cougars, bears and other wildlife not to crap in the woods!).
          You sound like you have a good plan.

          Liked by 2 people

  10. Many energy shortage stories in today’s roundup of news from friend Panopticon.


    Here’s one of them from Forbes. Notice the reality denial common to almost all mainstream news reports in that they rarely mention depletion of non-renewable non-substitutable resources. It comforts our mind to believe the problems are caused by policy choices and not overshoot. It’s analogous to our ubiquitous belief in life after death.

    There would be nothing wrong with denial if it was benign and did not worsen the outcome. But denying overshoot will make the outcome much much worse for many more people.

    Bank of America BAC +0.7% said in a note on Friday that the price for crude oil could exceed $100 per barrel over the winter and precipitate a global economic crisis, as reported by BNN Bloomberg. In its note, BofA cites the possibility of an unusually cold winter, higher aviation demand and potential gas-to-oil switching in power generation as factors that could create a further run-up in oil prices, which have already risen by almost 60% since January.

    For Japan, Korea and much of Europe, natural gas prices have already climbed to levels that are considerably higher than the price for crude on a per barrel equivalent basis. Further increases could support switching from gas to fuel oil in power generation, but only where such switching is still available. Many western nations have forced the elimination of that ability due to environmental considerations as governments and companies have responded to pressures from the green lobby and the ESG investor community.

    That is of course just one more example of the kinds of premature and frankly irrational energy choices governments – including the U.S. – have been making in the past few years to try to hasten this “energy transition,” forcing the replacement of reliable, high-density energy sources like fossil fuels and nuclear with low-density energy sources like wind, solar and electric vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries.


  11. I’ve been following Jill Winger for her tips on food preservation.

    Given the escalating problems in the world, she’s lately been opening up a bit more on her personal life and what they’ve done to build resilience.

    Since we’re discussing preps on this thread, I thought any young people in the audience might be more inspired by Jill’s ideas than the ideas from us old people.

    Here’s her latest podcast:


  12. I hope researchers are jumping on today’s natural experiment. We can learn from rare events, like 9/11 when planes stopped flying and we observed increased solar warming of the planet. Today we have an opportunity to see if less social media makes people more civil and sane.


  13. https://ourfiniteworld.com/2021/09/25/could-we-be-hitting-natural-gas-limits-already/comment-page-8/#comment-316758

    Jimothy says:
    October 4, 2021 at 6:36 pm

    It is hard for people to understand the interconnections between everything, and how everything tends to go wrong at once.

    For example, fires and drought have destroyed a tremendous amount of orchard production in the American West, and hurricanes and orange greening have done the same in the Southeast. Optimists tell me that people locally will pick up the production slack (never mind that it takes years to establish these plants).

    But, as of yesterday, my region’s main supplier of fencing announced that it is no longer carrying deer fencing (the cost went stratospheric apparently). Without deer fencing, you (generally) can’t establish an orchard in the rural Northwest or Northeast.

    Discarded tree fruit is also used as animal feed in a big way, especially as grains become more expensive and unobtainable from the Midwest and California. No livestock equals no manure, during a time when granular fertilizer is under threat and manure is needed as a substitute. No manure or fertilizer and…well, you get the picture. This isn’t hypothetical, it’s going on right now.


  14. Nafeez Ahmed jumps a shark. I recall him thinking clearly in the past. Denial circuit must have re-engaged.


    Maintaining the old industrial fossil fuel infrastructure with all its huge raw materials inputs in the form of minerals and metals will no longer be necessary. An analysis by Carbon Tracker compared the mineral inputs into the fossil fuel system to a clean energy system by weight. Coal generation needs 2,000 times more material by weight than solar, and overall the fossil fuel system requires over 300 times more materials by weight than a clean energy system. This means that although clean energy entails an increase in specific minerals requirements, it still entails a dramatic reduction in the global energy system’s total material footprint, including its logistics and transport requirements.

    Conversely, the obsolescence of that huge infrastructure, as well as of the old internal combustion engine industry and its associated vehicles, will make a vast global repository of metals such as steel, copper, aluminum, nickel, and cobalt available for recycling to build out the clean energy, transport and food industries. We will therefore be able to meet demand for these metals and materials from the clean disruptions by a combination of new mining with recycling at a much higher order of magnitude than conventional models recognize.


    1. Sorry, I only skimmed the article. But, my takeaway is that you are going to replace a complex integrated energy system (fossil fuels) with 5 new complex integrated green/big tech solutions and although disruptive it will not all crash in a complex catastrophe? I was also of the mistaken (??) impression that recycling of computer/tech infrastructure was not possible due to the minute amount of multiple minerals in each unit (CPU’s contain many ingredients??). This just seems like more cornucopian BS. No mention of overshoot other than it doesn’t exist in a few years. What about too many people living on a finite planet?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s right! You got it! I don’t see anything that can possibly go wrong here… The wind industry has a large and growing solid-waste disposal problem (scrapped turbine blades), but hey, that’s just a minor detail. Another minor detail are the tens of millions of obsolete-but-still-functional CRT TV sets from the 1990s and early 2000s that continue to show up at municipal dumps in a never-ending cascade – the outfits tasked with “recycling” them are stockpiling the leaded CRT glass, because there isn’t much they can do with it. On top of that is all the discarded consumer electronics of the last couple of decades. Lots of rare materials in all of this stuff – but good luck extracting them in an economical fashion. Our landfill economic system is a wonder to behold.

        Liked by 1 person

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