Friday, December 4, 2009

Homestead maintainence and the end of civilization

For some reason so embarrassing I no longer remember it, I fastened the hinges to the doggy kitchen door right into the boards on the wall. Reasonably enough, the whole thing became rather wobbly, so I had to take the door down, fasten bracing studs on the inside of the wall, screw on the hinges and put up the door again.

And after that, I was back to status quo.

I have just read Joseph Tainter's Collapse of Complex Societies, and his main point is that when civilizations become complex enough, they get less and less profits while expenses rise. You conquer a neighboring community, that works great. And you use the gain to conquer the next guy. But in the end, the empire becomes so far flung, the bureaucracy so massive, the distances so great, that just keeping up appearances costs a lot, and any stress becomes impossible to deal with. The same goes for our society, the expenses for medical care has doubled many times over, but the life expectancy has only increased slightly the last decades. More and more people become scientists, yet patent applications become fewer and fewer.

And this sure goes for a small woodland home, too. As aspirations rise, so does the time necessary to keep things just the way they were. Most people in our society have the option of a short cut: Just add energy obtained from somewhere else. It could be forced labour or it could be internal combustion motors. (That forced labour could be in China or wherever, doesn't matter as long as oil is cheap). The slaves and the machines need upkeep too, of course, but that's solved by just getting hold of still more energy.

Or you can do it my way, and try to do more and more stuff while the energy input stays the same. It doesn't really work, I can tell you. But it's educational.

1 comment:

Oldfool said...

You're right, it doesn't work but it is the most effort I'm willing to put out.
Enough is the word I like when describing my life. As in I have enough, that is enough but mostly "It's good enough".
Leaves me with enough time to enjoy the view and dream dreams.
Complexity kills.