Guest Post: John Michael Greer: If the Four Horsemen Arrive, Offer Beer

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Adam Taggart of Peak Prosperity,

"We have a national mythology that limits are always bad. In fact, we have a national phobia of limits," wryly observes John Michael Greer: author, historian, conservationist, and proprietor of the popular weblog The Archdruid Report [21]. "We need to get past that."

We need to come to terms with the fact that we don’t have limitless energy, we don’t have limitless resources, we don’t have limitless time. All of these things are specific. They function within a finite world. And engaging in hand waving about well, human ingenuity is limitless. No, it isn’t. Okay, it may be immense, but it’s not limitless.

And so getting past that fetish of limitlessness strikes me as the most important thing. All of us are going to die – each individual person listening to this show and everybody else as well. That’s a limit we can’t get past. And you’ll notice that people who actually face that limit and say okay, I get this, I have a finite amount of years on this earth and them I’m going to die. What am I going to do with the time that I have? Those are the people that we call mature. Those are the people we call wise. Those are the people who go out and have a life instead of just frittering their time away.


I think we need to do that as a society. We need to say nobody guaranteed America its particular place in the sun. Nobody guaranteed that it would continue to hang together, or that this Constitution – which I think is a very smart document – will continue to function when it’s being ignored by almost everybody. We need to accept that the world’s not functioning in our favor, that we have to function within realistic sets of limitations within which everything should operate. And then we might actually be able to get off our duff and do something creative with the time we have on this earth.


If you’ve ever seen a fifty-year-old man trying to pretend that he’s seventeen, it’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing to everybody and it rarely ends well. That’s what America is right now. It’s two hundred something years old. It’s not an adolescent anymore. It needs to ditch the bright red car, stop trying to pick up teenage chicks, stop the binge drinking, and actually deal with the fact that there’s only so many years left. You need to do something useful with that time and not go around with everybody else – you know, China and Europe -- just rolling their eyes and trying to pretend that they don’t notice how we’ve combed our hair forward over our bald spot.

So, then, what does using our time wisely look like?

Probably two-thirds of the energy we use in this country is wasted. Those of our listeners who have been over to Europe know that they don’t live in caves over there. They get by very comfortably on a third of the energy use per person than we use over here. We could easily -- easily -- decrease our energy use over a ten to twenty year period to European levels. And once we did so, we’d find that a lot of our international problems would go away in a hurry.


Okay, so the first thing, as we used to say back in the day, back in the 1970s and early 1980s when the whole appropriate tech movement was a growing concern, weatherize before you solarize. You first of all conserve what you have, then you can look at converting to renewables to do things with it.


What would we do that would be sensible? Get out of the empire business. If you do it voluntarily, as Britain demonstrated, you can maintain a lot. If it’s dragged from your cold dead hands, that’s not particularly helpful to you. We would be looking at rebuilding – we used to have the best rail system in the world. At this point, it would be a disgrace to a collapsing Banana Republic. We could fix that relatively easily. We’d provide inexpensive, safe, comfortable, easy rail travel all over the country at a tiny fraction of the energy we now waste on superhighways and air travel. I could go on for a week talking about things that we could do if we were actually going to be reasonable about making the best possible use of the energy we have left.


I would point out that one of the ways we can look at this is what an exciting time this is to be alive. What an astonishing opportunity we have to create – with our own lives, with our own choices – to literally shape the future ahead of us.


So what I advise is that people start by looking at their own lives and saying okay, how is my life going to change as energy constraints continue to squeeze in, and then get ahead of the change instead of being dragged along behind it. Get ahead of it, give yourself some space, work through the learning curve picking up the skills you’re going to need. Do it now, so that by the time it’s necessary, you’re comfortable with it, you know what you’re doing.


You’ve already insulated your place. You may have a solar hot water system in place if you can afford one. You’ve torn up some of the grass in back and turned it into a vegetable garden so that you can stretch out staples. You know how to cook from scratch so you’re not dependent on the vast corporate structure. You maybe started developing some tradable skills. You’ve got a little basement workshop where you’re doing something you can barter with your friends. You’re brewing beer in the basement, you know? That’s actually my number one suggestion for a lot of people – learn how to brew beer. If the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse knock on your door and you can offer each of them a cold one, they’re your friends.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with John Michael Greer (46m:45s):


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lolmao500's picture

Or meth... so the end comes sooner.

In other news...

Obama To Unleash Racial-Preferences Juggernaut

If your organization has a policy or practice that doesn't benefit minorities equally, watch out: The Obama administration could sue you for racial discrimination under a dubious legal theory that many argue is unconstitutional.

Michaelwiseguy's picture

What are the odds of another country or group of people doing a Normandy style invasion on the shores of the USA, and what would happen to them if they tried it?

malikai's picture

The four horsemen are going to be Bronies.

We're fucked.'s picture



If you’ve ever seen a fifty-year-old man trying to pretend that he’s seventeen, it’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing to everybody and it rarely ends well.


I saw the Stones in '95. It wasn't that bad.

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

Greer's barking up the wrong tree. Jevon's Paradox tells us that the more we focus on efficient use of a resource, the more (NOT less) we actually wind up consuming of that resource.

The key is finding entirely new resources, not using the old resources more efficiently.

Unfortunately, finding new energy resources is contraindicated as a success factor in implementing the NWO, therefore, successes in this area tend to get squashed. Tesla had it all figured out a century ago, but he didn't fit into The Plan, so the best part of his work vanished down the memory hole. We have been living in the Dark Ages, relatively speaking, since then.

Newsboy's picture

You have misinterpreted Jevon's Paradox.

It assumes that there is an increase of efficiency in use of a resource, which lowers the effective price of the use of that resource, so it gets used MORE, which overshoots the prior usage rate, because there are so many ways to use what is now effectively a cheaper thing per unit output.

This is not the case when there is incremental adaptation to something getting more and more rare and expensive.

In this case it never gets effectively cheaper to use more energy. Efficiency adaptations fail to reach break-even on cost, so the pressure to use less is maintained.

Neither case is paradoxical, in terms of relative utiity to the user.

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

"At that time many in Britain worried that coal reserves were rapidly dwindling, but some experts opined that improving technology would reduce coal consumption. Jevons argued that this view was incorrect, as further increases in efficiency would tend to increase the use of coal. Hence, improving technology would tend to increase, rather than reduce, the rate at which England's coal deposits were being depleted."

I don't see anything about price or cost there.

The scarcest resource is human attention. When all our attention is focused on getting more and more from less and less, it's a prescription for failure. Just as human beings moved from burning wood, to burning coal, to burning oil, our only hope for success is figuring out what comes after oil, not figuring out how to use oil more efficiently.

Otherwise, we'd still be burning wood, wouldn't we?

Newsboy's picture

The worry that reserves are dwindling is not the same as the terminal decline in reserves that we now see.

In England, there was much more coal to pull from the ground, and efficiencies in mining, coupled with more efficient machines burning coal, led to a big increase in the amount of useful work output, from the coal.

More coal got mined (more efficiently) and burned (more efficiently).

If the "concerns" about reserves had been FACTS, as we can now be assured that they are, then coal use would have tapered off as supply fell, and the coal became rarer and more costly.

Coal got cheaper in those days, not more expensive. Projections of dwindling reserves were premature. The technology of mining was immature.

We are now looking at very mature technology and science for the extractive industries. Oil price tripled and production remained approximately the same from 2005 until now.

The situations are different when you are on the gradually rising part of the development curve, vs the beginning of decline of a mature technology. 

For one thing, progressive development is slow, and decline is fast. One can't really get ahead of the curve when decline goes over the cliff.

One has to be careful in applying good lessons to the wrong situation.

Excuse me, I have to go get some free firewood...

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

You are making my argument for me. If increased efficiency helps us only at the early part of the resource utilization curve, and not the endgame, then you just agreed with me, and disagreed with Greer.

Newsboy's picture

I have neither agreed with nor disagreed with Greer yet. 

We have merely been discussing Jevon's Paradox, as far as I could tell.

Greer is not perfect in his assumptions about how we could rebuild our rail system.

The rail system buildup came over a long period of time, and allowed vast forests to be cut, coal and gold to be mined, cattle to be carried to market, etc. It was the main avenue for all commerce in North America, once the Misssissippi was traversed.

If you are disagreeing with his assertion that the entire infrastructure of this country, built since WW-2, can be rebuilt for European type compact and efficient cities, then we see that the same.

It can't.

You can build all this stuff when an economy is in ascension, but in decline, you just have to scavenge and get by.

Got a spare Thorium reactor?

WeekendTrader's picture

re:Jevon and his dilemma

It depends, and is application specific.
I've been switching to LED and CFLs from incandescents in my house and although my power usage (and bill) for lighting literally is a fraction of what it was I don't use more lumens; my demand for lumens per sqft has an upper limit. Similarly with my car. I have a hybrid, use considerably less gas but don't drive more.
I understand that lowering unit costs in a developing society is likely to increase total consumption but you have to take into account what the constraint to more unit demand is - and in my case, which likely is quite typical in the west - 10 bucks more or less on my electric bill do not dictate demand though clearly in other societies it very well may be.
In my specific case increasing efficiency is decreasing total demand, but, like I said, if my constraint to more consumption was the number of currency units it likely would be different.


Burgundy's picture

In England they don't pull much coal from the ground anymore. I believe another pit closure was announced last week. France is the same. Oil and gas are going the same way. The benefits of burning through the Country's reserves are hard to see.

Flakmeister's picture

British coal production peaked in ~1914...

For shits and giggles, compare the energy density of hard wood and low quality coal...

We are basically burning wood....

Blindweb's picture

"He [Jevons] argued that, contrary to intuition, technological improvements could not be relied upon to reduce fuel consumption."

Greer's point is to slowly sever your use of fuel.  I'm not sure how you missed that.  

I hope you're a troll, for your sake.  Tesla...every internet nerd's wet

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

You sever your use of a fuel not by using it more efficiently, but by finding a superior substitute for it. That's how the human race moves forward and thrives.

Greer is one of these tiresome Club of Rome "Limits of Growth" types, which is foundational to the New World Order. The NWO is a Culture of Death that prefers that 80% of humanity would just die already, and isnt just sitting around waiting for that to happen, if ou get my gist. The opposite view of course is that we don't know what the future holds, and that human beings will figure out a way to thrive by accessing newer and better resources through application of our God-given talents and honest efforts.

Lore's picture

Excellent post.

A lot of Zero Hedgers are still waking up to the "Limits to Growth" scam.  Some of the most devout, arm-waving, teeth-gnashing "Global Warming" / "Sustainability" zealots have never investigated the source of the Green Agenda.  They've never heard of Agenda 21.

We face a debt and dollar crisis, but not a civilization crisis -- at least, not as long as control freaks are held in check AND FREE MARKETS ARE PERMITTED TO WORK AGAIN.

Lore's picture



Fascinating that even ZH readers -- supposedly an incisive bunch -- fall for control freak solutions to problems set up by control freaks.

Why is it so inconceivable that the environment itself might be turned into a False Flag?




hooligan2009's picture

yes it was...the tight leather was a skin substitute

Things that go bump's picture

Thanks - I nearly choked.  The Stones are indeed the poster boys of eternal adolescent self indulgence, and their faces bear testament to every excess and debauchery that was wallowed in.  They remind me of Boris Karloff unwrapped in The Mummy.  

Doña K's picture

Excuse us! Is this a life guide? something you like all of us to do?

Everyone is an individual and everyone does what they want to do with or without guidance. The era of trying to find yourself and spend hours in therapy are gone.

Just be and do as you please! No need to get to Machu Picchu to meditate. You can be inspired and happy in your own backyard.  

stacking12321's picture

don't know what a "life guide" is.

but greer's comments make a lot of sense - live a simple sustainable life and stop wasting money and energy.

greer did not at any point suggest that his ideas ought to be enforced in some heavy handed way, it is just good old fasioned wisdom that can benefit those who choose to listen.

why are you so defensive about his comments, anyhow?'s picture

Her mother was frightened by a commune singing Kumbaya.

Doña K's picture

It's a self adjusting universe

Karlus's picture

Didnt Carter tell us to start wearing sweaters?


Land of the free, sure....

bushwarcrime's picture

Jimmy Carter was right on,

You see any talk of voluntary energy reduction for the greater good instantly becomes "communism/socialism" for the right.

This guy is right on as well of course. 2\3 of the energy is wasted. This is not a freedom issue.  "Don't tell me what I can or can't drive!"

Freedom to drive whatever you like or heat how many thousands of square feet it takes to make you feel manly is not freedom at all. When you have to support despicable monarchies in the middle east, AND have to invade others in Nazi style pre-emptive wars, well then you Lincoln Navigator becomes a weapon of mass destruction.

Now if the US only relied on domestic and Canadian/Mex oil sure fine, but it doesn't and being an energy pig is not being free or supporting freedom at all.

I don't think Thomas Jefferson and friends had GMC duallys in mind when framing works on freedom.

Yes the Archdruid is right on.

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

Nope, the Archdruid is dead wrong.

Your first mistake was assuming that Jimmy Carter was right about anything. His track record was unblemished by success in any dimension.

Seer's picture

I believe that Greer is stressing conservation first.  Anyone who has a clue certainly isn't going to believe that "efficiency" is going to save us; I suspect that it's tossed out there because it's at least a means for people to start understanding the importance of conservation.  And yes, I've known about Jevons Paradox for many years: I refer to it regularly (as a teaching aid/club).

People are free to voluntarily or involuntarily learn how important energy is in their lives.  And if one finds that it's of an involuntary nature it may only be so because one is not so much FORCED by social paradigms but by physical reality (mother nature).  Denial has led to the grounding of many ships.

The wisest know to see things in opportunistic ways, to get a jump on what WILL be (being careful to separate from what OTHERS are saying it will be).  It's either that or find oneself bitter and blaming everyone else for the problems wrought by improper planning.  If more people would be more proactive, assertive and responsible for their own lives we'd find that all the bastards would have less power (and wouldn't be able to leverage greed to astronomical levels).

Regarding Carter, all that he said about energy was correct.  It's the Message; don't care about the Messenger.  I've got lots of warm clothes.  Also have a wood stove (my wife will use it for simple cooking) and a fair sized wood lot...

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

"Conservation first" is a stupid losing strategy. We need to stay focused on the future, and not on conserving legacy resources.

This is not to say that I am promoting wastefulness. Frugality is a virtue. But when frugality comes before searching for superior substitutes, you've admitted defeat. "Conservation SECOND," I say.

Seer's picture

Conservation of energy, Bucko!  If you cannot comprehend that then you're certain to fail (as is the case with ANYTHING in nature that tries it).

Fuck, "superior substitutes."  This is a fucking finite planet.  There is NO way that you can alter this fact.  Anything "superior" is only going to mean greater population sizes, which then result in more trashing of the planet.  I had a bunch of cattle run through my property recently, they really tore the fuck out of things.  I'd done some grading and lots of the ground was still bare.  A few cattle it wouldn't have been much of a problem.  LOTS of cattle = BIG problem.  While you have your head stuffed in the clouds there are many who still have their feet on the ground (and can actually see reality).

Betting on something that doesn't exist in nature is certain failure.  A loser goes against nature.  Only those who wish to enslave others continue to concoct such fantasies as "technology will save us."  Go ahead and hitch up to that wagon (but don't make me or anyone else hitch up to it)- hang on to your iCrap as the Drone circles overhead- ah, ain't technology grand?  NOTE: You'll be dispatched before you can even open your eyes, by the very "superior substitute" that you're slaving away for for those handful of rulers...  Hubris really is such a nasty thing!

You can use words like "loser" and "defeat" all you want but using them doesn't make them fact (or probable outcome).  But, hey, rather than use facts why not use attack words and tied old messages such as "superior," right?  And, it sounds so like rooting for one's team/party!

my puppy for prez's picture

Seer:  Are you familiar with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm?

I think he is a rockstar, and I bet you would, too.  He's on youtube, if you haven't seen him.

Jumbotron's picture

This is not to say that I am promoting wastefulness. Frugality is a virtue. But when frugality comes before searching for superior substitutes, you've admitted defeat. "Conservation SECOND," I say.


What the fuck are you talking about ?





Jumbotron's picture

Your first mistake was assuming that Jimmy Carter was right about anything. His track record was unblemished by success in any dimension.


Sorry Buckaroo...but you are wrong.  Jimma was right about that one thing.  Even a broken clock is right twice a accept it and deal with it.


Although I have been a conservative all my life....I like hanging out with and associating with most Conservatives less and less.  They are really not Conservatives at all....since most do not conserve.  They simply consume....and have the money to do so without consequence.  Most are pigs of another stripe....just like the so called liberal pigs at the trough of government largesse....conservatives are pigs at the trough of mercantile captialist consumerism.


What they consider freedom is simply chains of slavery of another kind....but most are too stupid to realize it. 


And drill baby drill won't help since all that expensive tech to get at hard to extract and hard to refine oil...even if there are TONS of it...will not make oil and its by products any cheaper.


It's time to be REAL conservatives.....and start C O N S E R V I N G !!!

Seer's picture

I'll challenge you as to which is more efficient, a Lincoln Navigator or a Prius...

Well, I won't likely be hanging around long enough to provide a follow up rebuttal so I'll just provide the answer now...

We're talking about TOOLS.  It TOTALLY depends on the job at hand.  You need to assess the efficiency based on use.

If you need to tow a big load it ain't going to happen with the Prius.

Since most will be arguing efficiency in MPG terms I'll continue my answer along Those lines.

Is that Prius at 50 MPG REALLY more fuel efficient than the 15 MPG Navigator? (it's a guestimate about actual numbers, though I suspect that the numbers are relatively close to reality)

OK... Tool Use... Personal vehicles are for, well, moving one's person.  So, the Prius is more efficient at moving ONE person than the Navigator.  However, if we start talking about moving MORE people then we really ought to expand our thinking and the terms used.  I've coined the term to define what I believe is a more meaningful measure- People Miles Per Gallon (PMPG).  If I were to load that Navigator with 6 people then it would be getting 90 PMPG [CORRECTION: 95 PMPG].  If the Prius only had one person it would be 50 PMPG.  So, it really matters how the tools are being used.  My casual observations would, however, tend to conclude that there tends to be more people in the Priuses than in the Navigators.

Rather than blast something I think it better to blast USAGE as being incorrect/wasteful.  Nature doesn't scold for energy waste, it just has something eat that which has over-extended energy.

I have an econo-car (only 38 PMPG because I'm a pig commuter [SOV]) .AND a PIG car.  OK, the "PIG" car is actually an old diesel truck that's my farm truck; I use it to HAUL stuff that couldn't be hauled in my econo-car.  Both vehicles are at least 20 years old and fully depreciated: the diesel truck consumes less fuel than most trucks because it's simple and not all tweaked (I'm a big fan of turbos but there's Jevons Paradox to be considered), and hauling is more efficient than with gasoline engined trucks; and, it's easy to repair- easier to sustain; PMPG isn't really known because it gets very few miles put on it).

turkey george palmer's picture

no we won't have a invasion from the sea or air with the logistics alone defeating an armed invasion.  but leave things go as they are and the balkinization of america would present an easy pathway to  create a civil war in this country.   we been doing it all over the world.  to other countries. maybe the chinese train africans to work with U S drug gangs to destablize large urban areas. maybe local politicians are bought off to allow defacto control of entire cities by criminal organizations funded by foriegn governments. just fictional thinking.

Karlus's picture

"What are the odds of another country or group of people doing a Normandy style invasion on the shores of the USA, and what would happen to them if they tried it?"


They might actually win if we remove the individual rights to hold from the 2nd and defund the Tridents. Pooty Poot would prob give a state to each one of his buddies

HurricaneSeason's picture

I think Detroit would welcome a Canadian invasion and they'd let them use a bridge.  Canadians would give it back, though.

jballz's picture

It's kind of fun to watch the weakest of white people get all afraid when they see their racial privilege deteriorating.

It's like you know you would never make it on a level playing field.

What? We can't be racist anymore? Well how am I going to feed my family then?

It's not FAIR!!!!!!!!

Funny funny stuff. Thanks

Chuck Walla's picture

It's kind of fun to watch the weakest of white people get all afraid when they see their racial privilege deteriorating.


What a flaming idiot. How does being a racist make money? I mean besides Sen Robert Byrd(D), Al Sharpton(D), Jesse Jackson(D), Bill Clinton(D) and his pals, Gov. Orville Faubus(D) and Sen. Bill Fulbright(D).  Go buy some Coogi, ass wipe.


Detroit, Obama's Model American Community!


Anyway, to get a job preference, doesn't one have to want a job first? Why do that when government pays and one does not perceive any danger in the scam.

jballz's picture


yeah even funnier when white racists blame minorities for discriminating against them.

white man just can't get a break in this country.'s picture

So the concept that all men are brothers is lost on you?

jballz's picture


Ha ha ha ha,

Hell yes all men are brothers. Some brothers are slaves. Some brothers are just second third or fourth class citizens.

Whites get first dibs. That's not going to change no matter how many terms go to the negro vote.

Bu they will cry foul every time their white prvilege takes a hit and they have to make it on their own worth.'s picture

One does not reconcile with a brother by laughing at him, brother,

Seer's picture

I must admit, there were KKK Dems (like Byrd, who later repented), but your posting is a bit lopsided there, suggesting that you're a Party Pussy.

Yeah, no one who pulls a red lever makes money off of racism (oppression).  And, lynchings in the US never happened...

adventuretime's picture

Level playing field?

You mean one in which whitey is no longer forced to cough up half his paycheck to subsidize Big Mama's incessant procreation? 

jballz's picture


wow. voted down unanimously?

25 racist fucks in a row hanging out at ZH?

Pretty sure that is the exact sort of behavior these laws are directed at. Disparate services.

You may need to bring in some minorities to provide their comments and give me at least 23 more up votes. 

Otherwise you are in violation and subject to the fines. 

Or maybe not but you're still being racist fucks. 

Good luck competing with superior minorities when the deck is no longer stacked in your favor. 

Time for me to short Gamestop while you all get your asses back to trade school so you can be better janitors and wrench monkeys for your black supervisors who have actually been working hard their whole lives.


Kobe Beef's picture

Keep playing that race card, it gets less effective everytime. From the boorish Affirmative Action hires, to the illiterate welfare parasites, to the feral packs of criminals, the country has negro fatigue.

But you don't know when to quit, do you? You're on the "social justice" warpath, and you're going to keep pushing your grubby federal government-aided hands into the white man's pockets until the country gets negro hatred.

And then? We'll see you in flames, negro. Good riddance.


Zero Govt's picture

"Obama to Un-Leash a Racial-Preference Juggernaut"

That's coming from a man that got 94% of the black vote ...mind the hypocracy juggernaut doesn't roll over his foot ...and black voters


Peter Pan's picture

So tell me, will ths racial preferences juggernaut apply to the Ku Klux Klan?