Saturday, February 14, 2015

An example of Catabolic Collapse?

John Michael Greer talks a lot about catabolic collapse. When civilizations reach limits they can no longer keep doing what they used to to. Instead of expanding and maintaining critical services and infrastructure they are neglected. Patches and work arounds are put in place instead of doing the more extensive work that really needs to be done. This goes on in cycles. There's collapse, partial recovery, then collapse again. So on and so on. Eventually a complex society becomes a much simpler one that the reduced resource base can support.

His theory has been on my mind ever since we visited Flamingo in the Everglades. It's not what it used to be. While down there elderly folks kept telling me how wonderful it once was. There was a really nice restaurant. The marina was a full and busy. One could do things like rent houseboats to explore the wilderness.

After it was hit with a hurricane in 2005 it never recovered. The restaurant was never reopened. Instead they screened in a patio area and moved in a cook trailer. The marina had only one boat in it. The houseboats are gone. A ranger said that there were grand plans to rebuild, but the 2008 housing bubble collapse made funds unavailable. As it is they don't have the funds or manpower to properly maintain what they have left.

Catabolic collapse would first be noticed on the periphery of things. The last place it shows up is in the centers of power. When Rome was on its long downward spiral, the frontier was being overrun by barbarians, but in the capital they could pretend it was still the glory days.

So Flamingo sure looks like a place going through catabolic collapse. Then again, it also looks a lot like the normal boom and bust of many tourist areas. It could be something as simple as a change in taste and vacation travel.

Either way, that doesn't mean times have to be grim for those going through these times. The fishing is still great. The area still teems with wildlife. That little cook trailer makes some of the best pizza I've ever had in my life.

It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.



  1. I agree and every time I cross a bridge I think about infrastructure neglect . when I am on a lake I think what would a dam collapse be like . 90 % of all interstate miles built in 10 years 10% took the last 45.Atleast what the Romans built stood for 100s of year ours cant make a century.

    1. I try not to think too hard about crossing bridges -especially since I've cross some that latter collapsed.

      Roman engineering stood the test of time. Even some of their aquaducts are still working.

  2. Well not to detract from your point Bama. But the last 10% was put off till the last because it was the most difficult. As a retired transportation engineer I've been close to the reasons.

    The last 10% were the most difficult because of environmental, land cost and difficulty of terrain. Right there in Alabama, Montgomery specifically, I-65 finished out last through the city and crossing the Alabama River. These were the most difficult because of land values, environmental and cost. The same in Birmingham, the final connector on the south side.

    It's the same here in Florida. In fact a lot I-4 and I-10 couldn't be built now because of environmental requirements.

    I don't know about the rest of the country. But I'm betting it's cost. The tax money is not there. It was wasted on politicians' boondoggles. Especially in the NE which is a harsh environment.

    At least in Florida I know the bridges are safe. Inspections would close them before they reach a point of collapse. But then Florida has always had the best state roads in the country because of the gas tax level.

    Sorry I got so long winded.

    Wade in NW Florida

    1. No need to apologize. Good insights from someone who's been there and done that.

      I know the roads around my place would become impassable in about year without constant repair. Frost, snow, rain, and the heating and cooling cycles really break them up. Once all this snow melts there will be washouts all over.

  3. I'm no expert on Rome other than having to read a lot of Latin in school. From what I remember one of the biggest events that brought down the empire was the rise of the Christian religion. It totally disrupted the established society to the point that the army began to be made up of men from the provinces who were Roman In Name Only. Anyway our country has been taken over by the progressive "religion" which has totally disrupted our society. The old beliefs are laughed at as the old Roman beliefs were. Things rolled on in Rome for awhile but the dark ages and population decline set in. The progressive thought was behind everyone we fought in the 20th century but now has a death hold on our country from within. Not much to do about it but enjoy what you can and watch it roll. The population is so large and society complex, the decline is accelerating quicker than during Rome.

    1. There's an argument that Christianity became attractive partially because conditions were getting worse. Being poor was turned into a virtue instead of a sad circumstance. The old religion was associated with the rich and connected so became hated.

  4. We lived right across the river from Louisville, Kentucky, and the Sherman Minton bridge was shut down for six months, throwing Indiana into flux. When we left, the housing was down so far we got dirt in exchange for our home of 60 years. But we bought a Florida home for dirt in exchange. But, while Florida seems to be collapsing in on itself, the place we left is now a booming "metropolis" of internationally famous restaurants and businesses. Just the thought causes me to live with a big (?) on my forehead.

    The only charm I find in Florida is we don't have to worry about the weight of snow bearing down on our roof, and we can drive on the highways while drinking a Coke without hitting a pothole (and ending up wearing the Coke.)

    1. I'd driven that bridge a couple months before it collapsed.

      Right now the lack of snow in FL is a big attraction, but I would not want to invest a lot of money in a home here. There's something about much of FL that just does not feel real -like the works of man do not belong here. Kinda weird, I know.

  5. Part of Rome's collapse was due to the high cost of the corn dole to Roman citizens. Much effort and taxes were expended just bringing in food for the entitled who did not contribute or work. This deprived the Empire of money for armies and infrastructure.
    I think there may be a lesson there somewhere........