How are you coping with collapse-anxiety?

Like everyone, I'm starting to freak out a little about the state of the economy. Many of my good friends are out of work -- and some of them have been out of work for a longer period than I would have thought possible. It seems like every day, I pass another closed store or cafe on my way to the office. And of course, the suggestion file here at Boing Boing is full of stories of the collapsing property bubble in Dubai, the implosion of the South Chinese manufacturing cities, and a million indicators, large and small, of a crisis that is global, deep and worsening.

How do you keep your spirits up? I wrote before Christmas that this is the best time in history to have a worst time -- the time at which our capacity to do things in a way that's outside of traditional economics is at its highest. It's never been easier to come together to have fun, to make stuff, to change things.

I keep reminding myself of that, but it's not easy. My little family is probably OK -- we have a diverse set of income sources, from a variety of countries and industries -- but nothing's certain. In the past two recessions, I was a young kid with bottomless energy and no responsibility. Now I'm 37 and responsible for a child, and my boundless energy has been replaced by discipline and systems that let me get more done with less effort.

I lived through the dotcom boom and bust in San Francisco, arriving in 1999 and departing in 2003, and the two things that stand out for me were 1) how fast it fell and how deep the bottom turned out to be and 2) how quickly the unthinkable became normal and people started to have fun and do cool stuff even without the stupid amounts of money sloshing around the city, like Whos having Christmas without all the be-Grinched trees and trinkets.

For me, I think it's the suspense that's the killer. What institutions will survive? Which ones are already doomed? Which of the items in my calendar are likely never to come to pass? Will my bank last? My favorite cafe (the one near the kid's day-care shut suddenly one day with a "Closed for Refurnshment" (sic) sign in the window, and now the window is plastered with signs for the second-rate cafe across the street, which gets points for cheekiness, if not coffee; if you're reading this, Coffee At Goswell Road baristas, I miss you!)? The burrito stand in Exmouth Market? Will the publisher of that half-finished series of books I love last long enough to finish it?

And then there's the environmental question: how bad? How fast? Will the Thames estuary flood? Will the Gulf Stream stall? Is it insane to contemplate buying any house at sea level, at any price?

What are you telling yourself? How are you all sleeping at night? Are you hedging your bets with canned goods and shotguns, or plans for urban communal farming? Are you starting a business? Restructuring through bankruptcy? Moving back in with your parents?

My favorite Spider Robinson aphorism is "Shared joy is increased, shared pain is lessened." Jump into the comments and tell us about your plans, dreams, denial and successes.

(Image: Pay us what you think our food is worth sign, cafe, Farringdon Road, Clerkenwell, London, UK from my Flickr stream)


  1. I think I am doing the following things because of the “economic crisis:”

    1. Drinking more.
    2. Feeling disconnected from reality more frequently.
    3. Watching more TV and movies.
    4. Acknowledging that my BA in English is inadequate.
    5. Sleeping like shit.
    6. Wishing I would have saved more money, even though I’m currently employed.
    7. Trying frantically to pay off credit cards so I come out of this beholden to no one.

    Hey olds, I’m 23, will I be okay?

    I’m just hoping I make it long enough to see Watchmen.

  2. As Neal Stephenson points out in his brilliant novel System of the World, panic is contagious — but so is hope. If you seem to be strong and to know what you’re about, people who are scared will rally around you.

    So my plan is to find all of the ways that the potential collapse of the current order can be seen as an opportunity, then take advantage of as many of those opportunities as I can. And to point out all of those opportunities to as many other capable people as possible. (Perhaps, in the end, that’s my main problem with guys like Dmitri Orlov: he thinks more in terms of how to survive from the perspective of a helpless peasant, rather than a capable innovator.)

    Then, once I’ve rallied as many capable people as I possibly can around my flag of Hope, I’ll move us all to South America and start a Death Cult.

  3. I’m pretty worried, Cory.

    I was laid off a month a due to macro-economic conditions (i.e., I didn’t screw up but the company was cutting costs) and jobs are few and far between.

    I’m trying to seek inspiration from the ‘when the world gets crazy, the crazy turn pro’ meme and hope to see if some of the wacko business plans I’ve been contemplating can generate some money.

    I’m finding great satisfaction in my creative endeavors — music, writing and art — but that doesn’t pay the bills. My friends have been great, though, and that’s helped a lot in keeping my spirits up. Lunch invites, party invites, and the like are keeping me sane. At least I know I’m not alone.

    California’s unemployment insurance maximum ($1800 per month) doesn’t begin to pay my monthly mortgage obligation and I will be late on my payment this month for the first time ever. Next month, who knows?

    If anyone is looking for a web producer, web editor, web content manager, let me know.

    I’m really good, and I can start tomorrow. :-)

    I’m trying to smell the roses and live life one day at a time, etc., but that’s easier to accept intellectually than put into practice every day.

    Best to you and Mark.

    Thank the FSM every day.

  4. jesus

    mainly coping by realizing how lucky i am to have a job at all, and grateful that i don’t owe even more then i do, which is too damned much.

    buying fewer needless things, picking up bargains.

    also counting my very real blessings (good partner, good friends, roof over my head, etc.) that i have surrounding me in my life, if i just take the time to notice.

    being freaked by how many people don’t have the above

    wondering what comes next.

  5. After reading the “what to do when society breaks down” article i’ve been mostly having nightmares. I have no valuable skills to offer a broken-down society. Hell, I have few valuable skills to one that we currently have. So i’m learning ukulele in the hope that I might become some sort of wandering minstrel and support wife and child with post-internet musical interpretation of newsworthy events. And i’ve quit smoking, so i’m not beholden to some post apocalyptical Snout baron, like Dennis Hopper in “Waterworld”. Err, that’s it…

  6. As we’ve been sliding into recession, I’ve been doing the following things to help keep my spirits above water:

    1. Pursuing an Education in something that will help in the future: Information Technology.

    2. Moved back home. It’s more cost effective, and the added company staves off depression nicely.

    3. I’m reading more information from those better informed than I, and I’ve come to the conclusion that while the “Old” systems are collapsing (perhaps inevitably), this is the perfect time for the New systems to rise and shine like freshly gilded Pleasure domes from a Coleridge Xanadu.

    Oh…and I read more BoingBoing to know that I’m not alone. Thanks everyone for keeping our spirits alive with food for the mind! :-)

  7. I don’t have a degree yet, despite 3 years in college and thus the potential for an associate’s. I also have little work experience. I am therefore unskilled labor.

    I’m going through alternating phases of despair and self-loathing. Thank you for asking.

    Does anyone in L.A. need some yard work done? A trench dug? I’m good with a shovel.

  8. So far, so good, knock on wood. I just wonder why, all of the sudden, people stopped needing things? When was the law of supply and demand repealed?

    “We’re just going to stop making our thingamajiggies that everyone needs because the economy’s bad. That means we have to fire everyone here.” I’ve heard so many variations on this in the media that I’m beginning to suspect that, deep down, we must really somehow want this recession.

  9. I agree that, at least for me, the suspense is the killer. I don’t know whether the economy will get better or worse, when a friend or family member might lose his/her job… It’s the lack of confidence in the future that I’m trying to combat by savoring each moment in the present.

  10. I’m more concerned about my job than I have been in recent memory, but mainly my thoughts are tending in the direction of building cheap housing on cheap land, about stashing staples in case of need, and about farming in the desert.

  11. So far so good here.
    I don’t know many people laid off. Those that are laid off (IT) get back to work pretty quickly.
    I listen more to Fresh Air podcasts than the radio or TV. The fear in my USA friends is greater than in my NZ friends. So I don’t personally relate to the post. Who knows what the future holds. Just in time worry seems better than pre-emptive worry, IMO. – Ian, Christchurch, NZ

  12. AIRPILLO, we’re in god company. I’ve got two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s, and I’ve been out of work since July. My partner and I are, in a sense, lucky: we vaguely sensed this was coming, and opted to move to a city where his prospects were better than mine were becoming. It was a wise move, although the part where I’m unemployed has lasted (so far) seven months instead of the two or three we expected. Good and bad has come of this.

    Good: we live at the beach now; we feel better because of access to sun, fresh produce, etc.; willingness to finally branch out into new applications of our knowledge base; things will probably be pretty nice once the dust settles.

    Bad: weight gain (seriously, I’m heavier than I’ve been since high school); résumé fatigue; relationship strain.

    We’re probably closer for it, and we’ve never lived off of much, but a nice snap-out-of-it is never further away than a NatGeo article about Bedouin kids rooting through first-world resort trash for camel food and a few pennies worth of recyclables.

    I hope this galvanizes my resolve to always be aware of how good I have it, even at my poorest.

  13. Just relax and take a deep breath. There are serious problems in the economy, but it’s not the end of the world. We still aren’t near the unemployment level of the early eighties, or mid-seventies, but you hear people saying we are already in a “greater depression”. BS. We’ve just become too whiny and the blogs are an echo chamber of fear. All this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You hear the economy is collapsing so you freeze up and stop acting rationally, then guess what, it does start to collaspe. All this hyperbole reminds me of the fear mongering by the media after 9/11. I say take a news vacation until you calm down. What the hell can you do about the economy by worrying so much anyways?

  14. I feel like I have been waiting for this my whole life. 33yo married mother of 1, raised in south Texas by loving parents, my father being “prepared” at all times (read: a gun in every room). Maybe the vibe rubbed off onto me? We have land, a reasonable mortgage, things we always wanted “in case the shit hit the fan.”

    I’ve spent the last 2+ years geeking on the local food concept because it felt right and vital, and isn’t something that could be made obsolete. I’d encourage anyone afraid for their future to locate their nearest food sources, just in case. Do trade for web site work, newsletters, you name it… food for your skills. They need help promoting their product, farming and being tech savvy can be mutually exclusive. Be part of this movement.

    I am coming out of the closet here by saying that this whole thing is actually very exciting to me. I’ve been unable to figure out how the world would get closer to the one I want to live in, but this crisis could be the catalyst. We have had economic crises before, people figure out how to survive. Hopefully people will turn to more meaningful ways of survival, a more agrarian lifestyle, less ether-based ways of making a buck.

  15. I am fascinated by it. I keep thinking that people today in the western industrialized world are so screwed, since they don’t know how to survive without the entire infrastructure intact. The Orlov stuff is illuminating as it shows how far we in America have to fall.

    My family is doing OK jobwise and debtwise and all that, but we live in the stinkin’ desert which is no place to be if the water or oil or whatever runs out.

    I keep thinking to myself, “The people who lived hundreds of years ago had none of this stuff, and they got by. We’ll get by.”

  16. 1. More time to spend developing products that are meaningful, cheap, DIY, and serve a distinct niche (HuecoSkin(tm))

    2. More time to ride my mountain bike. Like all-day 45 mile rides.

    3. More time to spend with my family. We’re lucky all the parents are doctors, and my wife is a physician, too. Pretty high demand for those skills right now.

    4. More time to travel/camp in the RV or cheap (<$200 flights) to the mountains to ski. We have a 3 year old, so luxe is back in. 5. Started my own design agency this year. Business has been non-stop. I cannot find senior designers with enough bandwidth at $120/hr. 6. Work hard. Play harder. Get in touch with old friends. 7. Outstanding deliverables and ecstatic clients. Word of mouth and referrals have driven my business. I don't even have a website anymore. 8. Get rich quick is more like getting poor instantly. Work hard. Play hard. Work | Life | Love balance. 9. I'm hardly a model of success. Maybe I'm just lucky to be good enough. 10. When things fall apart and the center cannot hold, it's time to release and renew. There is nothing like watching my 3 year old ride his BMX bike on the pump track in between training runs. 11. Rockclimbing and bouldering cost nothing and redirect the selfishness backwards 20,000 years before humans were so egomaniacal. Purely absurd pursuits are now worthy of a lifestyle integration.

  17. Well, I was planning on starting school spring semester and moving to the big fancy city, but that idea shit the bed so I am just sticking with my crapsterfuck of a job at some ski resort answering phones and dispatching security [aka surfing the internet and sleeping on the clock] for 12ish dollars an hour. Just been saving up, but not worried. I have job security as I am like.. the last thing they can cut short of closing up shop. Part of the whole vail resorts guest service standards. Funny, all the years where I was running away from responsibility and trying to snowboard constantly, seemed like everything that could go wrong did. Everything was in my way, the police, my excessive drinking, social constructs of small mountain towns, etc. Now I want to grow up and get a real fucking job and I couldnt even get a job serving coffee at a starbucks in Denver before trying to move down there. Staying optimistic though, and enjoying my last hurrah. Hopefully there is an upswing by next college year… prolly study something or apprentice for something pertaining to solar or wind energy. Seeing as the O’man was in denver siging that ‘LEGENDARY LEGISLATIONS FOR THE GREAT SUCCESS OF THE LAND’, and seemed like new energy was going to be colorados focus. I still drink like a fish though. At least I have a girlfriend and plenty of people to fall back on in case I get shitcanned, but I know many people are doing much worse and there just seems to be this tension in the air all over.

  18. I am
    1. Grateful that after months of searching in one of the worst job markets in the country I’ve finally found a job with the census that at least guarantees me work through 2010.
    2. Sad that this means I’ll have significantly less time to play and record with my band- I think music is one of the best things to do in these economic times- but at least I’ll be able to afford equipment and practice space now.
    3. Anxious about starting a 40-hour work week after being effectively unemployed for months.

  19. I was fortunate to have been born onto into a farm family, both sides of which had lost our family farms (which had been in the families far back into the 1800s) in the Great Depression and managed, through toil and difficult years, to get them back. The Great Depression and World War II were the central story themes of my family history.

    I believe that my farmer grandparents, whom I spent a lot of time with growing up, shared a lot in common with the D.I.Y/Maker, Renewable, and Simplicity cultures we see emerging today. And farmers knew how to cope with uncertainty. Here are some of the lessons that I’ve taken through my own life, and as a sole consultant in the tech world, I’ve had my shares of ups and downs and periods of difficulty and uncertainty.

    1) Strive to be, and become progressively more, grounded. Know who you are, where you come from, and who you’ll always be no matter what. Celebrate your historical grounding and seek to create more grounding around you. If you don’t know much about your history and roots, dig a little. Hell, make some up! Get creative. Roots are important. If you’re rooted, you’ll never be adrift – even if you’re at loose ends. Remember that this is just as important should some great life-changing wealth befall you, as it is should some great loss strike you.

    2) Learn how to get by with less. My granddad used to ask, “Let me know what you need and I’ll tell you how to get along without it.” This is the Maker ethic in a nutshell. Use your creativity to enrich the simple and make it your own. Collect tools. Learn to make, cook, transform, and otherwise fashion what you can from what you’ve got and can find around you.

    3) Seek to appreciate the small joys, beauty, silliness, novelty, strange, and entertaining in life. In our accelerated blip world it’s important to learn to stop and go take a walk. Cultivate an appreciation of the slow amongst the rapid rushing about of modern life. Listen to as much music as you can, and as many different kinds as you can find and discover. Music is transformative. Let it do a job on you. That’s what it’s there for.

    4) Connect and network nearby and in reality as well as distributed and virtually. Many of us are highly interconnected virtually, and the tools for doing that get better all the time. Get to know your real neighbors as well. Garden with them if you can. Learn to share and enjoy neighborly conversations. Especially befriend the elderly around you, as they likely remember the importance of this type of community. Our elders have the most stories, and the longest memories. There are many who have survived much and hearing their stories can help contextualize your own life. Of all the things that we’ve lost a great deal of in our modern accelerated and fractured society, it’s our deep ties to our neighbors and our older generations.

    5) Cultivate a sense of faith. This doesn’t have to be a spiritual variety, but that works for some people as well. “Don’t panic” as Douglas Adams put it. Practice visualizing good and balanced outcomes. Do this for yourself, your family and friends, your community, and your world. Be vocal about possible good outcomes. When your friends, such as Cory, acknowledge how difficult it is to maintain faith and positivity in the face of extended stress and uncertainty, acknowledge that and offer some of your faith that much is possible. Be a reinforcer. It will take us all to construct the network of faith and action necessary to build a new and better future.

  20. I’m coping by keeping my well-paid job in a stable, recession-proof industry (IT in tertiary education).

    In addition to this, I’m continuing to live in the modest house with a modest mortgage that is well within my means to pay back (and is only becoming more so as interest rates plummet), rather than frantically trying to sell the McMansion other people hocked themselves up to the max to buy.

    I’ll continue to drive my cheap, old car instead of worrying about the colossal payments on the SUV that others can no longer afford to buy petrol for.

    I’m going to keep up the vege garden, like I’ve done for the past 5 years or so.

    Most of all, I’m going to be incredibly smug about having done all the right things when it seemed like everyone else was doing otherwise.

    I feel for anyone who’s lost their job and/or is having a hard time trying to provide for their family, but if you were living it up during the good times . . .

  21. I’m:

    Now a little proud of a fairly miniscule job about which I would have had a “take it or leave it” attitude a year ago.

    Glad that I have practical skills to do repairs to my own home and vehicles.

    Glad that I have no significant debt.

    And if all of those things were to be non-existent, above all I would still be happy and proud to have very good people in my life with whom I can raise a glass. Be it a good wine in the boom times, or a canteen of creek water in the bust, feeling a hand in mine is the thing keeps me moving.

  22. I think it’s time for a North London Mutual Support Collective, where we stolid Londoners get together and share tales of joy, hope, fighting against the economic odds, and booze.

    I’ll see you all in the Embassy on Essex Road, assuming it hasn’t closed down. If it has, I suggest we move in and squat.

  23. I have a degree in philosophy, finishing up an MA in political science, and looking forward to entering a PhD Program in September (hoping for the U of T) to further study political philosophy.

    In short, my plans are unchanged.

    Several years ago, I said ‘I have about 5 years to get shit done before it all implodes’… that was more or less 5 years ago, and I fear I am behind schedule.

    My personal circumstances likely wont change much in the foreseeable future; being a Canadian, my meager resources are well accounted for in a stable credit union, and our country is somewhat better off than the rest, but overall things are happening at an alarming speed.

    I’ve been trying to keep all my friends and family informed so they can each make their own best decision, and hopefully have some small familial safety net, but these are faint hopes. I did publicly warn people in mid/late-2007 to ‘expect the panic of 2008’, although I withdrew all my finances from any market based vehicles in time, I doubt many others did.

    I hope to read and write my way through any potential crisis and hopefully find a home among the republic of letters. But being 30 and just beginning a PhD is not a hopeful thing, but philosophy is recession-proof and can never be taken away.

    I suggest to everyone, stockpile books – that is my contingency plan.

  24. The most important thing to bear in mind is that we will get through this. We always do. Economic turmoil is always frightening, but so is every kind of turmoil. The bottom may be far off, and it may be a dizzying journey down, but at the end of the depression, there is no way to go but up.

    I see so much that is wrong with the world: global warming, globalization, exploitation, occupation; that a period of regression seems to me a great opportunity to rethink the way we have done many things. Sometimes institutions cannot evolve from their current state of affairs, sometimes they must be deconstructed and rebuilt from the ground up.

    With the right mentality, a system in turmoil is the best system to shape to your will. This time is frightening, but it is also exciting, because anything is possible. The people who have the most have the most to lose, the people who have nothing will lose exactly that. While I don’t think it a good thing that the upper middle class will likely be the hardest hit, I think it a great thing for democracy that right now, at this time, anyone with a truly great idea can leverage that idea into reality.

    I don’t know how most people are coping with the economic disaster that we are currently experiencing, but both my wife and I are returning to school. I am going to finish the BA that I left in pursuit of the arts 5 years ago, and she is applying to graduate programs in architecture (with an emphasis in sustainable design, of course). To me, this is a period to regroup, reconsider, and reflect. If you have ever wanted to make a change, now is the time.

    We intend to buy a condemned home when the market is bottomed out, deconstruct it and build our dream home on the existing foundation. This is, I think, the very nature of the human spirit: to take the world that is presented to us, especially that which is not working, and forge it into the world we imagine.

    Even if we enter a full fledged depression, unemployment increases, banks won’t lend, stocks won’t rise, I think you are right: there has never been a better time to have a ‘worst time.’ Today, as never before in our history, a banker can go online and learn in the span of a few hours how to be a sustenance farmer. Very few, of course, will take this route (if anyone at all) but for the first time in history it seems anything is really possible.

    And this last point I think is really my first point: we will get through this, we always have. Even more so now because the tools we have today make the tools we have yesterday look like chipped rock.

  25. This may take a while, bear with me…

    Last year my wife and I were having a bad time with our respective jobs so I suggested we sell our flat and move to Thailand for a year or two so she could pursue her dream of making it as a Muay Thai fighter. Anything to make her happy really. We had to do some work on the flat before putting it on the market and that’s where the trouble started. The guys we hired to sand the floors kept putting the job off until we were 2 months behind schedule – we went on the market the exact week the papers started reporting on the impending crisis and the bottom dropped out of the market.

    I’d quit my job by this point in order to take a TEFL course so I could work when we got out there. We had enough money to see us for a few months but we were still confident the flat would sell. We waited. The date of our departure loomed. We cancelled our flight. Uh-oh.

    Neither of us were working by this point and unemployment had started to become a serious problem. I was applying to every job I could find from working in my previous industry to sweeping floors, nothing doing. She finally got an admin job and I ended up working in the bar under our flat, enough money to make ends meet and no more.

    The stress got too much and we split up – not my idea. The flat is still on the market. I’m back working in my old industry having finally found a vacant position but it’s far from where I want to be, I left for a reason. She’s still in the crappy admin job and suffering from severe clinical depression. The flat is still on the market (she’s there, I’m in a friend’s spare room) and there’s no sign of anyone buying it any time soon despite having dropped the price more than the market average.

    Now all I can think about is what’s going to happen to my job? Our clients are all in very sensitive economic positions because of their industries, if anything bad goes down I’ll be the victim of the ‘last in, first out’ rule without a second thought. Her position is just as bad – can she continue to do the job in that mental state? If she loses the job then finding another will be near impossible.

    Thankfully I have a couple of defence mechanisms for coping with this sort of thing. First is the understanding of what’s going on – it’s a recession and they do all end at some point. It may get worse before it gets better but there are already very small recovery signs.

    The second one is that, despite being totally non-religious, I do agree with Buddha in that you’ve got to just accept how things are and not stress about things you can’t change. You have to make the best of your situation so to that end I’ve decided to get myself fit – I’m doing weights, running, cycling and took up Muay Thai myself. I’ve lost my beer gut and moobs and will hopefully be running a half marathon in about 7 weeks. I’m also planning a cycle trip from John O’ Groats down to here (Edinburgh) later in the year. Healthy diet, reading loads of second-hand and library books, all sorts of things to chill the mind out a bit and keep me sane.

    So that’s my story. Good luck to anyone out there who’s going through anything similar, I know how hard it sucks.

  26. Remember the first words in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Don’t Panic.”

    Remember what my mentor, Senior Creative Director Kazuhiko Kimoto, said to me,

    1. There is more responsibility here than people willing to take it.
    2. If the agency gets business because you are here, you can forget the other rules.

    My parents survived the Depression and World War II. I graduated from a segregated high school and have lived to see the USA elect its first black president. I survived busting out of academia, when that market collapsed in the 1970s. If a schlump like me can survive and prosper, so can you.

  27. Doing without a lot of luxury and much money for most of my life is serving me well now. I have a lifestyle I can sustain, although I’ll admit I have wanted one with enough money to not have to worry about new clothes for the kids, or juggling bills.
    I’ll admit also I have wanted and yet resent other people’s first world problem lives, where the biggest worry is making the cut for the private kindergarten, or to upgrade the iphone, or which new car to buy this year, or the challenge of an extravagant birthday present that doesn’t duplicate previous birthdays.

    Never have I been more glad that my credit is so lousy that even loan shark credit carders wouldn’t extend me credit. I have a lousy rating, but I also don’t have credit debt at a time when banks are screwing their customers with ridiculous penalties and rates.

    I’m getting divorced in March, and would love to turf the soon-to-be ex., but the reality is that neither of us can afford to move out right now. (I should say HE can’t. I’m not leaving this house, I pushed the papers to buy it, got the gifts to make the down payment, and got it rebuilt after it burned down.) So we’re going to be that acronym I first heard in fannish circles: POOSSLQs. (Persons of opposite sex sharing living quarters.) It’s common right now for people not to divorce because they can’t afford to live separately.

    When both our cars died within a day, I started taking art commissions to fix one of them, because stb-ex really does need a vehicle. I was tired of being a slave to gas, repairs and insurance. I started walking and riding the bus, then fixed up my bike. I’m now in great shape and about 95% independent from gas vehicles. (Which leaves their use for people who absolutely need them. I do not.)

    I worry, but I do what I can. Turn off the lights, conserve the water, work with what I’ve got. Buy clothes as sturdy as I can afford. Avoid media that gets me thinking I don’t have enough, or inspires the poisonous combo of potent/impotent envy. Count my blessings. Spend time with the kids.

    Draw and write and make things. These are the sturdiest things I have, as they are made by me and can’t be taken away, and don’t have to be bought. Work is a tonic.

    I’ve worked on helping people more, reaching out. I am always surprised at what a balm kind words are, giving and receiving.

    It’s not glam, but it is damn satisfying.

    I am wishing all the BoingBoingers who are searching right now the best of luck. I worry about you. I’m thinking of you.

  28. I’m in Canberra, Australia. Things around here are superficially okay so far – our economy is holding up comparatively well, job losses haven’t been widespread, and on the streets it’s just another day to all appearances.

    But I’m waiting for the shitstorm to hit.

    So far it’s been an exercise in watchful dread. Everyone knows we’re not immune, but nothing drastically awful has happened here as yet. Companies and government agencies are cutting back; nothing worse than getting rid of the superfluous crap anyway for the most part, but we all know it’s just the first signs of the crunch, and when it does hit, I expect it’s going to be vicious, baby, vicious.

    Australia’s heavily dependant upon SE Asia, Japan, and China for exports, particularly resources. It hasn’t really penetrated yet that China is going down with a collosal thud; travellers have reported that steel factories are closing like mad, and iron ore is being dumped in car parks because there are no buyers. That will deep-six the resources sector nicely, and our largest steel company, BHP Bluescope or whatever they’re called these days, is just starting the deep surgery on their payroll. And then the house of cards starts coming down around our ears.

    I’m hopeful that my family will be okay. I’m approaching forty (ARGGHHH!! Kill me now!), employed by government in a fairly safe job (as is my wife), so we might still get our fortnightly salaries until civilisation collapses completely. I’m keeping a sharp eye on every bit of news I can digest within the daily 24, watching for the signs, and trying to plan for what I do when it hits. (Gawd, I sound like a fundamentalist Christian or a survivalist, don’t I? I wonder when the survivalists will start with the “I told ya so’s”…) As another commenter said, I have no post-apocalypse survival skills, so I’m scouring the neighbourhood for useful people to have in a Niven “stone soup” collective – next door keeps bees, great, there’s honey; I’ve started brewing my own beer (if the local brew supplies shop goes I’m in trouble, but they’re having more customers than ever of course), down the road do their own bread (yes, from shop ingrediants, but it’s a start), and so on.

    And then there’s the worst bushfires in Australia’s history, killing 201 people at last count, followed swiftly by the worst floods parts of the country have ever seen. Hello, climate change, so nice to see you, come on in, have a beer. Have you met my new mate the GFC? No? Oh, you two will get on splendidly. While you’re getting to know each other, I’ll just phone in and quit my job, burn my house down, and then drown the kids, save you both some trouble, won’t be two minutes hey? And then you can get on with doing over next door…

    I have very strong doubts that I’m going to recognise this place in ten years’ time. What’s left of it.

  29. Just par for the course in my life. I have been pre-conditioned for these economically depressing days years ago by:
    • Having my identy stolen and bank account drained dry.
    • Being notified that 5 illegal aliens were using my Social Security Number in Montana…by the IRS.
    • Loosing most of my principle investments first during the fiasco and then when my ex-employer-invested retirement portfolio was raided by a scam artist and we lost it all.
    • Falling in love with the wrong woman..and that speaks volumes.
    • Working for 18.5 years in one company, suriving 3 layoffs but getting tagged in the final one before the division closed.

    So, I am taking it all in stride. I have funds placed away where no one can touch them. I have learned to live a very frugal lifestyle. And to love the small moments in life…and smell the flowers.

    That which doesn’t destroy makes you really silly! -)


    Dolnor Numbwit
    Eternal Noob

  30. Color me aloof, but I have neither been affected nor seen the effects of the current recession in my personal life. Sure the local bookshop, my favorite skate shop, and one of my favorite restaurants all closed up in the span of about two weeks, but my family and friends are doing ok.. I have contracted work at least until March 2010, my wife is doing well at her government job. We have no debt, The car is paid off, but we rely on public transportation, dont pay rent, have excellent credit, no kids, considerable savings and I have no investments that I had to watch go into free-fall. I think all in all, we admittedly live a good life close to our friends and family. I am not currently living in my home country (USA) so I don’t think I have first hand knowledge in how truly bad things are. Another bonus is the fact that the exchange rate in my local currency and my home currency is becoming incredibly skewed thanks to the tanking US dollar that I feel that I’ve gotten a raise every few months.. The way that all of this talk has affected me is that I am going out and spending less while putting away more in the bank – which is admittedly part of the problem, I know.

    So I suppose my question is:

    How can a person in my position take advantage of the current situation?

  31. Just par for the course in my life. I have been pre-conditioned for these economically depressing days years ago by:
    • Having my identy stolen and bank account drained dry.
    • Being notified that 5 illegal aliens were using my Social Security Number in Montana…by the IRS.
    • Loosing most of my principle investments first during the fiasco and then when my ex-employer-invested retirement portfolio was raided by a scam artist and we lost it all.
    • Falling in love with the wrong woman..and that speaks volumes.
    • Working for 18.5 years in one company, suriving 3 layoffs but getting tagged in the final one before the division closed.

    So, I am taking it all in stride. I have funds placed away where no one can touch them. I have learned to live a very frugal lifestyle. And to love the small moments in life…and smell the flowers.

    That which doesn’t destroy makes you really silly! -)


    Dolnor Numbwit
    Eternal Noob

  32. Learn to live on less money. Relax, it won’t kill you.

    You might even learn to like it, once you get all that silly consumerism out of your system.

  33. I’m coping by acting exactly the same as I did before the ‘collapse’, and enjoying the added frisson of decadence.

  34. am just relaxed about it all. there is so much scaremongering being done by people who should know better and those who take it too close to heart.

    Just seriously relax. There isn’t a damn thing you can do to affect the global outcome, even if you work your hardest and suck up to the boss more than anybody else, if your position is deemed redundant then the sensible business choice will be to axe you.

    If you KNOW this and know the impossibility of trying to affect it, just chill, you will survive.

  35. This may sound smug, but please bear with me.

    Having endured the last 10 years of people’s fantasy of limitless credit and delusional ideas what is an acceptable level of debt, not to mention the endless property purchases all at spiralling prices….I am feeling a little smug.

    I have no debts, well ok I owe £190 on a credit card but that was only because it was the only payment method they accepted.

    But I digress.

    I live in a wee rented house, have significant savings, have zero debts,drive a 97 Saab 900 that cost £700.

    Of course having savings at the moment is a double edged sword, you have money in the bank but are accruing zilch interest.

    I’m an artist for a Video Games company, which as an industry seems to be recession proof, though admittedly at the indy studio level prone to sudden collapse.

    I knew all this was coming. People in the UK turned into avaricious monsters, the house i live in has increased in price, not value, 350% in the last 9 years. People in ordinary terraced houses deluding themselves that they can “unlock equity” so they can buy a Porsche Cayenne.

    And no one seemed to realise that with property at that price and wages unchanged, that their kids would be living at home FOREVER.

    Anyway…enough of my ranting.

    Suffice to say that the lesson I was taught as a nipper in the supposedly parsimonious West of Scotland has held me in very good stead.

    Never a lender not Borrower be.

    This time next year I will own my own home outright.

    Almost worth enduring 10 years of people braying about how much their houses cost.

  36. I forgot to mention that I, and a lot of people I know, are deriving no small degree of schadenfruede from the bucket of ice-cold water this is going to be to Gen Y. I’m not proud of that reaction, but with very low unemployment here for many years, almost anyone with a pulse has a job, and it will be refreshing to see some of the absolute idiots and grads straight out of school who insist they will be CEO in six months have a dose of reality. Yes, I’m sorry to break it to you (well, no, actually I’m not), but you might have to be halfway competant now to have a hope of keeping your job, and you will have to earn your next promotion rather than getting it by default because everyone else has gotten better jobs elsewhere.

    Many apologies to Gen Y’ers to whom the above doesn’t apply; there are lots of you. It’s your slacker, self-centered, lazy, rude, egomaniacal buddies I’ve reserved a place in the unemployment queue for.

  37. The future is obviously bicycles and squatting.

    Regardless of what actually ends up happening, the most important thing (as it always has been) is having a wide circle of good friends. This will get you through anything.

  38. My circle of influence keeps me sane

    * We do what we can as consumers about the environment

    * I moved jobs internally to secure my position at the first sign of “at risk” letters

    * I dont worry about stuff I can’t change, we had no debt when this crisis started, and have spent a good portion of our savings buying stuff in the hope it helps someone somewhere keep there job

    * most of all I dont stress about something I have no control over, like the government bailing out the companies that got us in this mess or the fact the economy is in the shitter, that will have to wait for the election in 2 years when I will have a very small measure of influence.

    * oh, and I remember, I recall the dire warnings that the 80s recession, the nineties recession and the dotcom bubble were the end of the world as we knew it, they weren’t

    * remember that the news services are determined to keep us shit scared because it’s good copy, 850 jobs lost this week at mini on the same day another company annouces 8000 new positions, which do you thin got more press ?

  39. I’ve been in San Francisco longer than Cory has, through two recessions, both of which had their advantages (cheaper rent, more interesting art/tech projects.) Uncertainty wasn’t fun, however, and I definitely don’t envy folks with kids to care for.

    Plus side: Remember, you can get as much pleasure from a $5 burrito in the Mission as a $50 sushi plate in the SOMA.

  40. I’ve been living at home since graduating from university almost 3 years ago and I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I can write that first year off as “taking a break” but these last two are me being lazy about finding a job and having parents who never pushed me too hard about anything except school… which they didn’t have to push me too hard about because I was naturally gifted and smart enough to get by in school and never really learned the true value of hard work. So now I have a degree and no real work experience to speak of, coupled with a lack of self-confidence.

    Also I’ve been inured to talk of doom from my mother telling me about the credit card debt she carries for many months and somehow still making ends meet. We live in some kind of state of living fairly modestly but still spending money on crap we don’t need.

    My fear level is less than or equal to that of 6 years ago when my dad had been unemployed for 2 years and we got 30 day notice on the house we had rented for the last 7 years. We found and signed for a rental in our price range in the 11th hour and Dad had recently landed a solid job through a temp agency, thus giving us much better prospects of finding a place.

    So I’m fine for the moment. Video games help.

  41. Forgot to add both parents have jobs with companies that are doing alright at the moment. Who knows what lies ahead, but it’s certainly not as scary right now as what we were facing immediately 6 years ago.

    Also, pro tip for those that have to move in a hurry: Don’t leave the refrigerator/freezer/piano for the end of the move. We spent all day into the wee hours of the morning moving, and somehow those ended up being some of the last things. It was not a fun night.

  42. I’ve been a victim of four redundancies. I’m not sure my fragile ego could take another one.

    For better or for worse, an awful lot of my perceived self-worth is based on the fact that people want me to do something enough to pay me for that. And if they don’t … then I’m worthless as a human being. And all the tinkering around little trinkets and little projects don’t mean a thing if it means that nobody cares.

    Having said that, I look around me and I see everyone else carrying on buying £400 handbags, with their heads deep in the sand about how deep this financial crisis goes. And I can’t believe what they’re doing.


  43. I was recently unemployed for a while. I survived it financially because I had some savings but no mortgage – my rent is low, at about 25% of what I would need to pay for a current average mortgage. Thankfully I’ve always been used to living relatively cheaply.

    The most frustrating part of it all was the feeling that potential employers were leading me on. I’d interview, then the agency would call me back and say I did really well and they were interested in hiring me. After a month or so of talk about delays in starting projects or salary negotiations, I’d finally get told that they didn’t have funds to take on a new employee right now. I had a few in a row like that, including one that stretched it out for a couple of months.

    It would have been so much easier to just get a straight-forward ‘no’ rather than having my hopes repeatedly built up and then dashed. Of course, the reality was that the employers were just trying to build a pipeline of potential employees in case their situation improved (or didn’t get worse in the way they feared).

    I was fortunate enough to succeed eventually through contacts I had made over the years in my industry, but the situation was starting to wear me down. Now it is much easier to understand how the long term unemployed can become so disheartened. It’s really hard to persist when you feel you’re getting nowhere and worse still the potential employers start to feel like the enemy.

  44. A lot like you Cory, nearly 40 and main income earner for my wife and baby.

    But really, what is the worst that can happen? What is the most hardship any of us are likely to suffer?

    If I have my wife and my baby boy close to me, a roof over our heads and enough to eat, I have everything I could possibly need. I really believe that. She and I have been together for twenty years. We used to spend $40 a week on food, and we were fine. Still had beer money.

    I stay calm, focus on earning as much as I can while business is still strong here, and let anxiety pass without touching me, as often as I can.

  45. Actually, I’m grateful for a little doom and gloom these days. I’ve been watching the economy for almost exactly the last 2 years (minus one week) – that was when a new tax on share trading in China precipitated a global fall of share prices on the order of 5-10% or so and I thought this was fishy. If almost everyone says things are great, but almost everyone sells because a bag of rice fell over in China, maybe things aren’t that great after all.

    Ever since that, all I heard was that the economy was great, that whatever country’s economy was fundamentally strong (that was August 9th 2007, I didn’t know quite how bad things were until I heard that) and that whatever trouble there will be, it will be short and shallow, maybe not even a recession, if only people do the right thing (The Economist, a few weeks later), at a time when it was absolutely clear that there was a great big mammoth in the room that nobody dared talk about. Mostly because they though the mammoth died 80 years ago.

    OK, we’ll see that the bailouts, especially in the US, won’t work and things will get worse from here (bad as in the-US-admits-it’s-bankrupt-bad, but then at least people will stop to try and salvage the sinking ship) – but at some point the perception of the economy will finally meet the real state of the economy and things will become more coherent and eventually better. Call me an optimist.

  46. At the end of last summer I moved from sunny Minnesota to sunny Mountain View for a new job. This was the the culmination of my five year plan after the last bubble burst: get on my feet, get through college, get to where my ability to write code would imply that I would hopefully never have to be a temp again. This is the end goal, the zenith of my success!

    I comfort my fears by imagining myself motorcycling to the Swiss border, having freshly escaped from Stalag Luft III. The wind is in my hair and I’m sure that I can jump that barbed wire fence.

  47. Try the Goswell Eatery next to the Level-3 datacentre (which is on the premises of the old Gordons Gin factory – the original front is still there with GORDONS written above the doorway). Friendly staff (“usual sir?”), good coffee and they make a mean bacon sandwich. I’ve spent many a happy hour there waiting for engineers to turn up.

  48. i’m a self employed graphic designer working mostly for TV so i’m either in the best place right now or the worse, i haven’t found out which yet.

    Best, because i have no business overheads except the extortionate London public transport prices. I’m flexible and talented enough to do just about any job so i can flit about, working in the bigger companies not caring if they’re not getting bonuses or christmas parties.
    Companies might start employing more freelancers when they downsize.

    Worse, because the work might dry up with all the shrinking budgets and all the full time designers laid off may become freelancers.

    so far this year work has been sporadic but regular enough to pay the mortgage. I am such a slave to the beast. I bought a house at almost the height of the market on good advice it was only going up. oh well, so long as i get a couple of weeks work a month and i don’t get ill. ever. eep.

  49. It’s pretty bad for me here in Ireland. I’ve worked in various parts of the IT industry for 25 years, (mainly manufacturing but customer account side last 9 years). Got laid off in May, small but well known global company closed the division, another CEO idea that went wrong. Chilling out the first few months (before the crash), I was training to swim the English Channel. After that I finally started looking for a job. But I haven’t even had one interview. I have an Honours Science degree, I did 2 Master’s degrees in Environmental stuff in the past 6 years, started an MBA, I’ve been told I seem pretty smart, tons of experience, huge general knowledge & education and…nothing.
    I do suffer from a lack of friends, kind of because lots of moving over the years so I have no luck networking.
    I live alone and I swim a few hours a day but am not motivated. Walk the dogs. Watch lots of TV which I never did before and find it difficult to read, which has always been my lifelong love.

    I’ve been seeing a therapist to help with the most difficult period of my life but can only afford 1 visit every 2 weeks. I’m calling everything into question (not just because of unemployment but also my age).
    On the plus, my young adult kids are great and happy. I have a fab fiance (but she’s very worried about me). I always lived relatively frugally while saving just in case, so my savings will keep me & mortgage going another year. But what chance of getting employed then?

    The age thing is a huge factor. I’ve been an atheist all my life, I’m not turning to god or anything, but I’m getting deeply affected and frustrated with the general worldwiew and the pain I see all around me and my own. I read Robert Bly’s ‘Iron John’ recently, and am also now struggling with my feeling that men in modern society have been abandoned, by ourselves, i.e. other men, through ignorance of what we need, and worry about my sons.
    Though I enjoyed lots of my time in IT, I also hated lots of it. The way our societies strip away the potential of so many people is getting more painful for me.Money has little meaning for me except to pay bill,and buy books, and maybe provide some security. But I have no idea about any alternatives. I’m not creative or an extravert.
    Maybe I shouldn’t have put all this down. But it’s my whole world right now. I went through it all before when I was in my late 20’s in recession in Ireland before. It was utterly different, it didn’t lead me into depression or existential angst. The stakes weren’t as high.

  50. In a way, I’ve been pioneering your grim meathook future for the last 8 years.

    I never recovered from the double-whammy of the end of the dot-com boom and the recession that 9/11 caused in the Metro NYC area. In short I went bankrupt, lost all my stuff, my health, and moved far, far, away from any major city.

    I’ve given up on the corporate IT sector entirely, although I’m trying to do free-lance tech support for homes and home offices. It’s pretty hard to do that in a smallish town in North Carolina though.

    I doubt if things could get too much worse for me without flat-out killing me. That’s oddly comforting.

  51. I’ve just left my regular, soul-sucking job to start up again on my own. Hope and inspiration are in short supply right now if you only listen to the media and don’t actually talk to people, but I believe they are sellable skills.

    I’m lucky not to be overstretched by debt – just mortgage and student loans, and to have a husband with a regular job that doesn’t suck his soul, but I am gathering all my energy to get out there and spread hope and make things beautiful around me.

    And if it all goes tits up I’ll spend more time growing our own food and living self sufficiently, like my mum taught me when I was young (before she sloped off to Alaska to live a more rugged lifestyle).

    In the face of everything I am still optimistic.

  52. Who else thinks that companies are using the economy as an excuse to axe workers to improve their earnings, just as they do in good times?

    (It always aggravates me that cutting employees to make the bottom line bounce doesn’t count against a company, since poor management was what led to needing the cut.)

  53. I’m working on law school, good distraction. My immediate family is mostly retired, so they don’t have much to worry about.

    In a way, this had to happen and is all to the long-term good. Businesses had too much irrationality, too much management fat and too many shibboleths. It’s time for a fundamental reassessment of our relationships with them.

  54. heh. I’ve been living on the edge of capital so long that it doesn’t really affect me. While my peers and I missed on all the money sloshing around, we did spend the last ten years working our arses off. And now most of us are mostly self employed in the industries _we_ created, with at least 2 years of job security. Should be able to get over the line, and if not, I’ve very little to loose – my friends and lovers aren’t going anywhere, I have minimal possessions and am quite accustomed to squatting.

    I have faith in humanity’s ability to work it’s way out of the ecological crisis through renewable energies and am looking forward to the day I can become a cyborg. Oh, and I’m barracking for an anarchist revolution, but I’m not holding my breath.

  55. Learn to live on less money. Relax, it won’t kill you.

    You might even learn to like it, once you get all that silly consumerism out of your system.

    Amen to that Daemon. Since I started trimming unnecessary expenses away my life has become simpler and actually less stressful. I handed in my bus pass and started cycling again – better off financially and physically. Stopped eating takeaway food except the odd Thai meal. No more frivolous purchases, in fact the only objects I tend to buy are books and many of those are second hand. You just don’t need stuff.

    Some may argue that by spending less we’re hurting the economy, that we need to spend to get out of this. Aye, right. If we need to spend money we don’t have to make the system work then the system is well and truly broken. I’m not going to prop it up just so it can screw me over some more then break again…

  56. Coffee @ Goswell Road was the location for my afternoon coffee break when I worked on Northburgh St, until I was made redundant. Shame to hear it’s gone, they were lovely folk.

    I was made redundant about 10 months ago. I wasn’t too surprised as my industry (media sort of) was tied directly to advertising and commercial property construction and these two seemed to take the first hit of the crunch as it were. I’d only started the job one year before but the difference in the number of jobs available was frightening, the previous year I would receive tens of e-mails weekly about possible employment but by the time of my redundancy I was averaging two a week. Fortunately a couple of months later I landed a job I’d wanted for years running the graphics department for a long running UK documentary series, I certainly don’t envy my friends trying to make a living in the dwindling world of freelance, I guess I was made redundant at just the right time.

  57. I am doing nothing in particular.

    I didn’t accept insane mortgage offers, have lived always within my means and have never been a deranged consumerist.

    I was made redundant in April 2008 and my savings can last me until end 2010 (if I continue spending at the same levels I have always done, if I cut expenses I could live without working for even longer).

    Unless the Global Weimar comes to pass, I find it unlikely that cautious people, who saved and did not spend stupidly during the years of plenty, will suffer much.

    Spare a thought for the poor: they are the ones that will suffer the worst, spare some of your income for charitable organizations that help the homeless or people in poor countries.

  58. I’ve lived through several recessions (was born into one, in fact, since I was born in 81) but none of them ever affected me. In fact, when my family’s finances fell apart due to personal mistakes, it didn’t really affect me.

    Now that I have a job, and have to support myself, it’s freaky.

    Ironically, while everyone is losing their job, my job seems sound at least for the rest of the year, and my partner just _got_ a job.

    I can understand how the housing collapse happened. The car industry collapse seems kind of… odd. We all sort of knew the big three were messed up, and then as soon as gas went up and the market went down, they went from ‘soldiering on with dodge ram ads showing that stupid pissing calvin sticker getting beaten by a ram and endless local dealer ads showing cars driving around mountains’ to ‘HOLY CRAP ITS OVER!’. That seems suspect. You mean to tell me that the car industry is living paycheck to paycheck? Well wasn’t that stupid.

    I think some companies are probably laying people off because they want to do it now and avoid falling apart later, but that’s not going to work.

    AS for what I’m doing, part of me wants to see the world change. The other part is afraid of it. Will I go from being middle-class to standing in a bread line? Will I have to guard my food store from people at night? That’s mind-boggling. We have so much collective intelligence and we can’t think our way out of this?

  59. I have been scaling down my lifestyle to the point of maximum minimum since about 3 years (thats the point where I understood that things are going to run over the cliff no matter what is beeing done). Trying to disconnect from as many grids as possible (food, heating and water is done – that will ensure survival I guess). Only “gadgets” I get are those to get some money in in the meantime (computers thats is) but other then that no TV no new phone no kindle no nothing. Trying to build up any kind of knowledge that I can to a) see the implications of the great unfold b) trying to survive the cliff dive c) build a new and better society afterwards.
    The great thing is that this keeps you busy enough to not see how bad it actually is and keeps you sane enough to go on.
    I am quite glad so that more intelligent people then me are seeing the deep shit we are in as it is.
    There is only one thing that I am really afraid of – and that is the fucking nukes and guns that could finish us all off – something the people who are used to be in power and wield power over the “normal” people will likely use to keep their “entitlement” even if they go under themselves because in their sick mind they have nothing to loose anyway.
    Also I think the system has become to complex and is now in autopilot mode set on a collision course to the nearest black hole. Nobody has the capacity to be able to steer the beast.

  60. I was about to leave this site when I ran into this awesome thread.

    The recession has not struck me directly as of yet. As an untenured academic juggling 5 part time positions that could go as low as 2USD per hour I am threadbare to begin with. I have lived and worked with people earning below a dollar a day so am quite used to this condition.

    What’s mind-boggling is how we have come to tolerate such disparity. I think change is due, we all have the potential to make it happen. The idea excites me, I spend nights thinking and writing about it.

    “We have so much collective intelligence and we can’t think our way out of this?”

    We can. Let’s think together!

  61. I recommend Bucky’s “Grunch of Giants”

    “What we have experienced are ever larger sums of other’s money being commanded by the money-makers—all at the expense of the individual human beings who do not command such sizable funds, discouraging their enterprise and initiative.”

    This stuff is designed to make you anxious and not act rationally. Ignore it. Live sensibly.

  62. “Nobody has the capacity to be able to steer the beast.”

    Was talking about this with a workmate yesterday.

    We were discussing climate change, and he was saying that Obama seems to be on the right track. I mentioned to him that the US Energy Agency produced a report on climate change in the late 90s, under Clinton (himself no friend to the environment), as well as a strategy on how the US could climb down from oil dependence and develop alternative energy resources.

    Then Bush got in, and that all got swept away. Completely disregarded.

    Eight years on, and the US is only just starting to steer in the right direction (kind of).

    When dealing with the “beast” of global society, economics and politics, these are the time-frames for change that we’re talking about. Given a lot of the predictions of climate change and peak oil that are coming out, that beast will never turn in time.

    That said, who knows? Society can act pretty quickly in a crisis, and they’re simply not feeling the crisis yet.

  63. Personally, after years of feeling that I’m lagging behind my peers professionally and personally, I’m feeling relatively safe right now (as safe as you can feel while still being somewhat knowledgeable about the state of the world).

    My partner and I rent, so we don’t have property prices or mortgages to worry about.

    I don’t have much debt, beyond my student loan, and have never had a credit card. I don’t have much in the way of savings either, but I’m starting to save now, and am trying to strip back my lifestyle accordingly.

    I have a stable, low- to mid-level job in a government-funded institution, and my job is basically guaranteed to last til late 2010.

    I don’t have any kids. I don’t (can’t) drive. My health is (touch wood) pretty good.

    On top of that, I’m aiming my still burgeoning career squarely at community development and social mobilisation. I want to become more specialised in helping local communities coordinate to a) power down and become more resilient; b) stand up for their rights in the face of government and big business; and c) communicate with other communities across the globe, to share information vital to our future survival and success.

    I’m also planning on doing some community gardening and learning some useful skills – carpentry, maybe mechanics…

    I could do with a year or two more than I currently have, and a new, more relevant job, but there’s no use in worrying about that (though I do). I guess we’ll see what happens.

  64. Having never had a steady job but being used to waiting until the skies darken for Opportunity to rescue me (which it usually does) I am not terribly worried. The only thing that has changed is that places where I worked now have a new excuse for trying to pay me well below what my work is worth. Like #49 noted- yes,’bad economy’ is the first word out of their mouths. But here in Poland, the economy has never been good- at least, not as far as little people like me are concerned. Maybe someone up there earns millions, but the average person is usually prepared to have to rough it a little bit. Not much, but enough to make us shrug our shoulders when they tell us there is no money. They ALWAYS say that.

    And it wasn’t too long ago that we did not have every product imaginable in the store next door, so if bad economy makes them disappear from the shelves, people will still do what they still do best- tinker, repair, and get by.

    As to me, I fortunately do not need to worry about supporting anyone but my cat, and he is not a high-maintenance flatmate. I do have a debt, accrued while I was pursuing my lifelong dream by sailing a square-rigger to the Equator last year, but I am slowly paying it off with little concern for the interest. It was worth it.

    The truth is I have expensive taste. The objects I really want I couldn’t afford no matter how hard I worked, so I just don’t worry about them. Between those and the minimal creature comforts I can spare a penny for there is a huge gap which I roost in quite comfortably.

    A couple of weeks ago I hit a bad spot. My best source of income dried up, and jobs elsewhere were constantly ‘most certainly beginning next week’. I was doing nothing, earning nothing, and for a moment things looked bad. But yesterday I got two good offers. They will not make me millions or even set me up for the next year, but they will let me get rid of the debt. And that is enough for now. After that, there will be a new opportunity and a new adventure.

  65. “We can. Let’s think together!”

    It would be lovely to see all the worlds intellect that is not centered on self interest but rather on advancement of human society actually got together and formulate a powerful enough message of unity to actually go against the status quo. The problem is that the intellectuals are individuals with their own self centered universe. They can give great ted talks or collect 2 mio friends on facebook but most have failed again and again to get out of their self centered self promotional world and actually get involved with something really transformative that does not primarily advance them self.
    I think for a transformative movement to form it has to get much much worse and then it might just be too late.
    I am quite happy to see some of the more influential people come around and at least acknowledge that there is a problem. But unless there is a voice of unity calling for fundamentally changing our society quite soon I have not much hope for the general future. And the voice also would need to be put in action which is hard because that takes time and resources and reading through the comments – those people who are affected most are either working 5 jobs or are watching TV and having a depression the others say “oh its not so bad – sure the shops around me close and generally there is a distress but MY family is just fine”.
    If something does indeed form that has not one person doing self-centered self-promotion – something that is sound peaceful and in synch with earth and advancement of society – I am all on board but I am skeptical that this can happen with one part of society “we need a strong leader” sheep and the other “its me me me” wolfs.

  66. @ FALK:

    I agree, to some extent.

    Have you heard about the Transition Town movement?
    It, to some extent, describes what you’re talking about, and aids local economies and resilience to external change. It’s still a growing movement, and maybe you should check it out?

    A quick Google should turn up some useful stuff.

  67. @#63 FALK

    Thanks for saying this, the most ironic thing is that these projects sometimes turn out to be quite exploitative. I’m translating a book and am never going to get my name on the cover. I need the chant to keep me going…

  68. @51

    Funny thing, I’m in this for the libertarian revolution too :)

    The collapse of capitalism could be a very good thing. We may be able to create a society that organises production in a more humane way. One that is able to feed and house people by cooperation and one that can take into account externalities. If we don’t do something soon, we’ll drown in our own refuse. Perhaps this necessary break can translate into a positive movement towards collective responsibility while retaining individual liberty.

  69. As a serial entrepreneur, I have a saying that I live by which helps keep me sane: “Very few things in life are ever as good or as bad as they appear.”

    Keep your chins up kids – this is America!

    Imagine what it would be like living in Iceland, Zimbabwe, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. If your biggest concern is whether or not your barrista or designer burrito maker is going to be around tomorrow, you have a blessed life!

  70. I’m in the military. They can’t fire me. I can’t even quit for another seven years. And I make bonuses for just doing my job. Join the Navy people, they love you there.

  71. Maybe people were beginning to realise the difference between “necessity” and “demand.” That might be wishful thinking.

    Working to save to finish an associate’s in fine arts…and move back to Europe =]

  72. I’m an Australian, bunkered down in rural Japan to weather the storm.

    I work as an Assistant Language Teacher in Japanese schools, my current contract lasts for another six months, and I’m about to recontract for another year, after this one finishes. So, my job is safe for the next year and a half at least, hopefully longer. I don’t like my chances of getting a job in Australia at the moment, so here is where I plan to stay for the duration. Japan, as yet, doesn’t seem too badly affect. My wage reasonably generous, and is also guaranteed at a national level, so I’m in pretty good shape to sit this out.

    It’s scary, watching the rest of the world, but I’m enjoying life. Learning the guitar, learning Japanese, writing, and reading.

  73. Firstly I keep reminding myself that it had to happen.

    That the contradictions at play were too gross – the majority of people killing themselves in jobs they hate to pay of debts on the things they don’t need that were produced by kids working 18 hour days using resources the planet is running out of.

    A decade of boom was merely bringing more of the world closer to the unsustainable Western system where, according to UNESCO and the WHO the UK and the US have the highest levels of mental illness in the world, and the most messed up young people.

    So something had to change. Mental health aside, a downturn will do more for reducing the planet’s carbon output, faster, than anything else on the table.

    I appreciate it’s little consolation to those with kids, in the short term at least, but perhaps the Thames Estuary won’t now be so flooded, perhaps the long term future for young people is that bit brighter. And when countries use stimulus activity to reinvest in renewables and sustainable practices (as in the US) then the downturn becomes a further good.

    And as you say there’s never been a better time to be unemployed. People are already spending half their days skiving work to browse and social network – given the chance to do it full time for six months, who knows what leaps in public educations and skills might happen? The unfulfilled banker finally gets to record her album, the estate agent gets to launch his first film slate, the particle physicist finally gets to read up on psychology.

    And this is kind of our fault, you know? Not many folk are blaming the web, but with what, already, 28% of UK adults using a largely anarchistic system for their primary leisure activity, something was gonna collapse. Old businesses have still not really adjusted, and possibly most are too big and Cluetrainless to ever change, while few investors have been savvy enough to know the difference between a Friendster and a Facebook so have put their resources into derrivatives and sub prime debt.

    If it isn’t Gaia calling this crash as the best hope to slow the coal power stations of China and India, it is more likely the network effects of the web where the kings, youtube stars and world changers run out of bedrooms, and the major brands get ridiculed and pulled apart every second they put a foot wrong. IMHO the crash began in 2000, but through ballooning the derivatives/commodities/debt markets, investors managed to postpone it (tho making things far worse in the process).

    I’ve no idea how long it will last, and that does make planning hard. When it began last year, and after seeing how happy poor folk are in India a few months before, I figured I just needed to reinvest my energy in social capital. If it all comes crashing down, it’s the large circle of friends who will make veg growing, bread baking, candle making and all night dancing that much more fun.

    (I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this as you must have more whuffie than almost anyone online, and would doubtless be flooded with nappies, food parcels and spare rooms if you ever asked!).


    ps – Goswell Road? That’s where Netribution had our first office. I miss it a lot, tho have now got six times the floor space for less than the same rent in Glasgow, where, curiously, new coffee shops and bars keep opening and the old ones have ‘staff wanted’ signs on the windows.

  74. The other day I sat down and gave some thought to picking up stripping to support my reading and ‘net habits… until then, I’m making do with a library card.
    Perhaps we’ll see less corporate gentrification in the days to come. (I live near Dallas and was deeply disappointed to see what happened to the Deep Ellum district.) I think we have the opportunity to encourage a deeper sense of individuality and artistry in spite of limitations so long as we keep information easy-access.
    We so desperately need to ensure that education is available and ongoing in spite of fiscal difficulties.

  75. My pregnant wife and I are moving in with the parents. I’ve got a job but we’re looking to trim costs now to prevent a panic in case I lose my job.

    And if I stay gainfully employed, we’ll use the extra money to pay off school loans.

  76. I feel as if you, Cory, are talking to me in a trench in between skirmishes. Telling me and reassuring me that there is a chaos coming after us and we cannot defeat. A last rights, if you will.

    But, I guess there is not much I can do. I am in college with parents funding me. Dad is in oil, so we should be fine…maybe.

    Anyway, great post. Though my day is now a shade darker.

  77. Cory,

    I have been reading boingboing for I guess about 6 years. I check it twice a day and really appreciate everyone’s posts. Boingboing is young, extremely hip and savvy (I especially appreciate your stories on the copyright front – which almost no one is talking about).

    But your concerns about the economy is precisely why I decided to share my story here:

    The problem is, neither you nor anyone here will believe it. But we are on the cusp of a major change, and the economic collapse is just one small part. I feel nothing but compassion for those people who have no idea what’s really going on in the world.

    The Hopi teach that there’s a river now flowing very fast, and those who cling to the shore will suffer greatly. And it’s clear that most in the world are still clinging to that shore. Until you and others become aware of the bigger picture, your suffering will only grow.

    p.s. You are wrong about the global warming argument. You are being lied to.

  78. This thread strikes me as a microcosm of reasonableness, clear-sightedness and optimism that I suspect reflects our wider society and its resilience well. A reason for hope then and like most posters I am sure we will muddle through somehow. Cory, my thanks to you for getting this going – it’s been strangely reassuring to read.

    For my own part I have been watching this build for several years, shaking my head and wondering how banks could lend 6 x self declared income for 125% of a property’s value on an interest only basis and expect any good to come of it. That it went on so long surprised me but I am more surprised at the pace at which things appears to be unravelling now.

    Having lived through a recession or two plus the puncturing of the 80’s UK house price bubble and the dotcom bust my sense is this time things will be worse and that the short-to-medium term pain in society at large will be considerable.

    Why? Because this is not localised it’s global, scarily so. Because this is not in contained within a sector where irrational investor exuberance is rewarded by a punishing stock devaluation leaving the rest of society largely unaffected. Because, because, because …..

    Today we have asset prices crashing globally, economies contracting globally, technically insolvent banking sectors in many developed countries (who knows how many) and ballooning global unemployment. The conditions for a vertiginous downward spiral exist in almost every major global economy. A perfect economic storm. Add to that a governing class that is simultaneously venal, compromised, unprepared and disassociated from the lives of the vast majority of those that they govern – or put more simply a lack of great leaders (I have hope that Obama reverses that trend) – and you have a recipe for a long and prolonged depression.

    So, yes, we’ll muddle through, but expect it to be painful to a degree that makes it an outlier to the experience of anyone under 75.

    A question for us all (certainly one I am asking myself), is what kind of world do we want to muddle through into and crucially how do we participate in making that happen?

  79. I’m not even sure how worried I should be. On one day, a trusted source may explain that we are fucked, and that everyone should be ready for mass riots & canibalism shortly. On another day, I may read that it’ll be ugly, but modern society will buffer most of us from substantial misery. My grandmother saw this coming a few years ago, and when I said “do you think it’ll be as bad as the depression?” she cackled in my face, and said more or less “Oh come on, your generation isn’t creative enough to live like that!”
    I plan on riding this out by quitting my job (in a dead industry) to move to Brooklyn with my husband so he can go to school, and I can find out just how little the world needs another (really stellar) graphic designer moping around Brooklyn, looking for work.

  80. i have a few basic tricks up my sleeve that come in handy no matter the prevailing economic weather:

    1) live cheaply but comfortably. most of my furniture was free from parents or former roommates. i set maybe 30 bucks aside each paycheck for entertainment, don’t buy lots of gadgets, etc.

    2) focus on the things i can control. I can’t control the temperature outside, but i can decide which coat to wear. Same principle applies to the economic situation.

    3) don’t watch the news. ever. i firmly believe that modern news broadcasts are constructed to induce paranoia and general unease. I’m much happier overall, and have greater confidence in my own ability to handle whatever problems come up, since i quit watching the news. i check a couple websites for info on topics that interest me, but that’s it.

    4) make having cheap fun a part of your routine. inspired by Doctor Popular, I decided to get back into yoyos after years of not picking one up, and spend about an hour every weekend practicing.

  81. How am I coping? Not all that well, actually.

    The good news is that even with the steep fall in housing prices our place is still probably worth more than we owe, at least on paper. Whether we could move it if we needed to is another matter, since we have seen properties with For Sale signs in our neighborhood for years, and I doubt that all the owners were stubbornly wanting unrealistically high prices.

    The bad news is that I’ve been having to work without salary for some time now as the startup I am at is getting caught in the teeth of the liquidity crunch. It’s past the point of skipping luxuries now for me now, as things I regard as essential (such as building up savings and giving to charity) have had to fall by the wayside. One severe health crisis, either for us or for our elderly parents, and I think our cobbled-together plan for maintaining cash flow would start to fall apart.

    In a year I’ll be 50. But if I have to reinvent myself one more time, I will of course do it.

  82. After graduating in May, I managed to get a real job in October, just before the shit really started hitting the fan. I’m at a small (<50) tech company and as far as I can tell we're in a safe position financially--we're even hiring a couple more people!--part because lots of people use us when they lose their jobs and start small online businesses. Even if I was afraid for my job, though, I'm planning to go to law school in a year or two anyway; I'd just move up my start date. Also considering leaving early to work on a farm before returning to school. I grew up with a berry patch and veggie garden, but it'd be useful to learn how to do it on a bit larger scale.

    I've got some student debt, but nothing too bad; no credit card debt; and I hope to have a sizeable scholarship at a number of the schools I've applied to. I don't particularly want to work in biglaw, so I react more with schadenfreude than fear to the news of elite firms' layoffs and bankruptcies. Considering specializing in international law instead of IP to better enable working or teaching abroad, but that's pretty much the only difference the crisis is making for me.

  83. @79: The speed is in which things are unraveling is not the natural speed. You are correct to have assumed a slower one, but unfortunately our societies have not yet embraced the idea of spreading available information to everyone. Economic data is treated as top secret, only parts of it are revealed. And this is the reason why everyone kept up producing until the government finally admitted there is a recession to deal with. An admission that came laughably late, 11 months into the recession, much could have been done had it been known after 1 or 2.

    I’m not an American. But if I were, I would demand the former government to be arrested in its entirety and put on trail for treason.

  84. I’m extremely excited for the collapse of capitalism. We’ve known it wasn’t sustainable in its current form for ages – and it seems like this is finally the breaking point.

    I live in a lower-income neighborhood in Minneapolis. The house directly behind mine belongs to one of my best friends – this summer we plan on tearing down the fence between our yards and making a massive vegetable garden. We’ll also be building a chicken coop – I’m currently vegan, but if times get tough, you know I’ll eat the hell out of those eggs.

    I consider myself lucky – I’m youngish, have no debt whatsoever, and can ( as I have many times before ) survive on very little. Growing up homeless makes you ready for any situation that comes up.

    The future is beautiful.

  85. So far, so good. Things that used to seem like a millstone around my neck now turn out to have been blessings in disguise. My resentment at giving up my share of the house I owned with my ex-wife has turned to relief that I’m not saddled with a mortgage that I wouldn’t be able to afford now. I filed for bankruptcy several years ago, but that was when they were easier to get and I don’t have big debts hanging over my head. Even my job, which I’d been trying to escape almost since I started it, has become much better since my old manager left, is in a recession-resistant industry. Not gloating, just saying that I got my suffering in early.

  86. My husband and I are changing up our mutual funds to green and ethical funds (and I’m writing a piece on it for WorldChanging, with any luck) and we’re continuing to save. We’re looking at the housing market to see if the downturn will continue and if that means we’ll be able to afford a house (and if so, where). We’re blessed with youth and a lack of debt. I would be more frightened if we were carrying major debt, if I were carrying a baby, or if we were older. But I’ve also watched my parents transform themselves after layoffs. It takes a while, but it happens. My dad just got a new job. His next-door neighbour just lost one.

    I’ll be finished with my M.A. this year. Eventually I’ll have to decide whether I want to pursue a Ph.D., and hope that there will be a supervisor in the area who wants to take me on. But with cuts to education funding, I’m wondering how likely that is.

    Food-wise I’m preparing more vegetarian meals. They’re cheaper and greener. I’m baking our desserts rather than buying things in boxes (again, cheaper *and* greener).

    And, of course, if everything collapses, I’ve gently informed my friends and family which of them can pickle and eat me.

  87. TP1024: Yes you are right it looks like GWB’s administration was almost wholly criminal, and only non-investigation and a lack of spine has prevented jail terms. Nice what they did for the Banks with only 100days left in GWB’s presidency…
    Mr.Winner: I agree with you too.
    Weirdly, if the low low interest rates were getting “passed-through” to the debtors, now would be one of the cheapest times (in terms of cost of funds, that is ,the rate of interest charged) in my lifetime anyway, to borrow money.
    That one may not want to borrow to buy assets declining in value (ie houses) is understandable. But what a great time to borrow cheap money to buy up productive assets at all-time-low prices! Too bad only the big banks get the low low taxpayer-granted interest rates! Too bad that they are not lending to people and businesses, but looking to deploy their tax-payer-funded Reserves to leverage their acquisition of those knocked-down assets from baby boomers selling out their holdings in fear and panic!

  88. Learn about mutual aid.

    Develop systems and associations which put it into practice on a small scale in your own communities. When capitalism fully collapses, the communities that survive will be those which already have alternative systems for exchanging goods and services already in place.

  89. The Banks will and have massively profited from the Government’s help.
    But they will lobby like crazy to get the message out that the Government cannot afford to help you or your children.

  90. If you have land, consider setting up some tiny houses on it (100 sq. feet or less). As people learn to live on less money, you can either let your children who cannot find work live in them or rent them out to other people.

  91. I’m living in Dublin, Ireland. People are pretty damn scared. Much of the economy is underwritten by two sectors- the construction industry which has collapsed and on the high wage jobs from US corporations, who are shrinking their operations here dramatically. A series of banking and corruption scandals have further damaged our battered confidence.

    Everyone is leaving. We’ve been through this before and our natural response is to flee, to England, to America, to Australia. I finish my degree this year, and of my peers there are very few that don’t plan to be in London come September. Its bad there too, but it is so much bigger that there is more potential.

    I work, part time, as a debt collector for a small business. Technically I’m in ‘debt management’ rather than collection but it amounts to the same thing but without the doorstep aspect. Its a horrific job, utterly soul destroying. I’ve never been busier. The boss keeps joking that I’m the only one in the office with a safe job. I cannot wait to leave. I might not be able to.

    Its not all bad, tho. There is a long history of collective action in Ireland, of strikes and workers movements. We seemed to forget these through the boom years, but they’re back and there’s rarely a day now when one union or another is out on the streets. We’re one major strike away from a general election. Radicalization is growing. I am heartened by this.

  92. I live in Michigan. Unemployment has recently been recorded at 10.6%. Of course it’s higher than that, because there’s lots of people not listed in the “official” count.

    I got laid off in 2003 from a geek job in academia, and spent over a year out of work. I got lucky and picked up a job out of state mostly due to the name of my previous employer. 7 months later, after living out of a hotel room during the week and driving home on weekends, I got lucky again and found a job back home. Not too long after that, I got laid off again. I spent the next two years hopping from contract gig to contract gig, and then finally landed a permanent full-time geek job… back in academia. I need to find the pin I used to wear that says “I turned my life around, and now I’m back where I started”.

    After that layoff in 2003, we did a drastic lifestyle change in our house. Budget was slashed, expenses were minimized – not that we lived high on the hog before, but we stopped going out to eat every week, and traveling to visit family every few weeks. We’ve lived that way ever since. No Tivo, no Netflix, no pay-per-MMO, no movies, no dinners out, no HBO. Late last year, we upgraded to regular cable as a cost-cutting measure by consolidating phone, tv, and Internet service with a single carrier, so we can at least stay home and watch TV and be entertained. (Disney Channel for the kids, Food Network and Discovery Channel for me, Sci-Fi Channel for the missuz, all channels we didn’t have before.)

    There’s really not much we can do to prepare for things to get worse. We’ve been living in “worse” for years now. My wife (bless her heart) is amazingly frugal, and has an inhuman knack for finding the best possible deal in a clearance rack – the kids still get new clothes, but if my wife paid 20% of the original sticker price, she did something wrong. Our credit card debt is… manageable. We’re way under the American average, since we’re only carrying 4 digits of debt on a single card (the other card is unused), but the wife says we’re in way too much credit card debt. I let her work the numbers, since she has the (otherwise unused) Bachelors degree in business management.

    After reading through the comments here, I have realized that I’m not really paying that much attention to the news. During the elections, I shifted away from US-based news in favor of BBC coverage, but I’m not even checking in with them as much anymore. I guess my wife has had the right idea all along – she has no contact with the news in any way. She doesn’t even want to hear about stuff from me.

    The one thing that could make things better, and that I highly recommend to you all, is: have friends around you. We have friends that we’ve known for 20 years, but they all live too far away from us. We can’t just pick up and visit them some afternoon, due to the distance. Being able to share time and experience with them would make this situation much more bearable.


    ‘Everyone is leaving. We’ve been through this before and our natural response is to flee, to England, to America, to Australia.’

    No point coming to England.

  94. I read a lot of comments saying basically “this time it’s different”. It never is. Not with the dot-com boom, not with 9/11 not with the various housing booms, not with the current recession.

    Up or down it’s never different. It may more intense than anything we have experienced in living memory, but the world will still be there when it’s over. (Where I live it hasn’t really started yet.)

  95. I must confess I have never had a real, stable job and I am 25. I have been in college forever, first doing Biology, then doing Computational Biology.
    I have been doing all kinds of mental odd jobs and consulting. Currently I survive because I still have a bit of parental support, because I get most of my food from the University canteen and because in Venezuela there is a currency exchange control, so when I get paid in dollars, I ask my employer to send me the dollars to Colombia, I cross the border and I get my money in pesos, that I then exchange to bolívares. Why? Because for each dollar, I get 2.15 bs. here, if I get the money sent to my account. For each Dollar in Colombia, I get the market rate, around 5.6-5.7 bs.

    I will have a proper job as researcher once I finish my thesis, I will make lots of money. Well, not really, but when you have nothing, even a bit is a lot. I am optimistic about the future, because never in all human history there has been so much educated people, so many smart and talented folks. I think we will find the way to get out of the pit, sooner than later. The most important commodity is not oil, is not titanium, gold or diamonds. It is human ingenuity.

    Maybe this shaking we have is needed for getting rid of what is rotten, so it can fall to the ground and fertilize the soil, incorporate into us, as we turn the old stiffness into new flexibility. We yet have to think what is the alternative for this model we are emerging from, it is not sustainable, but, at the same time there are billions of people that need higher life standards. We need them, we need their minds to build our collective future, to find new, clever hacks to the world and solve our problems. We need their voices and opinions to solve their local problems. We are all together, and it is time to understand it.

    I am not afraid for my future. I think that no matter what happens I will be able to not to starve completely and keep living under a roof, even if I have to return to my father’s house if the whole country collapses due to low oil prices. In biotech, a thousand flowers will soon blomm, anyway. I hope mine is among them.

  96. I’m probably different then a lot of people in this thread, as I don’t think this problem will collapse the universe in on itself. I think its a painful correction, exacerbated by being a long time coming (and crummy government policies for the past decade and a half). But, hell, who knows, considering our interdependence, things could spin out of control, but I don’t see that happening in the near future.

    I’m also really glad, reading through this thread, that a good deal of people are calling for a return to simpler things: family, friends, localized hobbies. Essentially, you all see the value in community, which is where survival comes from. Very few people have been ranting about getting a gun and hoarding, the absolute stupidest thing to do in times of trouble. I cope by being optimistic, focusing on where I exist in my network, and being a valuable member of that network. We are social animals, and no one is an island.

    I watched for years as society held up waste and excess as virtues, and worshiped morons for being morons and chided those who dared to speak up of possible troubling times and dared to express outrage at our foolishness. Now, the chickens have come home to roost. There will be no great shift in human consciousness: the wicked will go unpunished, the good will shoulder much of the burden of civilization, and the ignorant will keep babbling, but, there will be opportunity for those willing to see a possible new future.

  97. @90:

    (Sorry but sometimes I can’t resist, I’d love to keep my vowels though …)

    Pray tell, if you think so and so many people think so, why isn’t this all over the net?

    I’m not an American, I have neither the influence nor the credibility to say anything like that. It is you guys who must demand it!

    It is you who live in a country that whose reputation, whose economy, whose healthcare, whose people are in the gutter because of a predictably bad government. I don’t blame you for electing this government, we all make mistakes. But if you think you made a mistake, try to make good on it.

    The world needs a signal that such leaders can have no comfort after raiding a nation, be it the USA, Zimbabwe or whatever country. The world needs to know, that no leader of a nation can have to right and live in comfort after (as we now know) it has given explicit orders that break human rights.

    This signal, can only come the USA.

    I can’t do it, it is in the hands of the American people to spread it and shout it out to the world, to the internet, to Washington and wherever people can hear it and demand that the late US government is put to trail.

  98. I’m fine, thanks. One or two years from graduating from a fancy American university with a PhD in computer science.

    The news about the academic job market is rather bleak–hiring freezes at universities alarmed at the drop in their endowments, companies delaying the start date of already-hired employees–but my friends on the academic market this year and last have managed to get interviews and postdoc offers, so I think they (and I in a year or two) will probably be fine. I even heard about someone who just got hired by a hedge fund in Manhattan.

    The academic funding situation is actually looking up. The stimulus package included a few billion for the NSF and other government agencies. Everyone both expects Obama to be much friendlier towards science in general than his predecessor, and that research funding will be a part of any future economic stimulus efforts. (A welcome change from cuts at the NSF during the past decade!) It seems likely that university enrollments will rise somewhat, though this might not translate into more academic jobs. It’s a good time to be a young professor, actually. (Perhaps not in the humanities, which are funded out of university endowments and student tuition. But a humanities degree was never a very good idea, economically.)

    And really, if worst comes to worst, I have no debts, no mortgage, no car, no children, and enough savings to live off of for two or three years. Like others ahead of me, I’m glad to have never had much more than a ratty laptop and a room in a house furnished with used furniture and books.

  99. Still following my basic financial model:

    1. give generously (my wife and I were audited by the IRS because of our charitable giving; fortunately, we are organized, and had all the documentation to back it all up)

    2. save aggressively

    3. avoid debt (we’ve been a 2-income family for as long as we’ve owned our house, but have a mortgage we could afford one 1 income; other than the mortgage, we have no debt. Thanks to #2 above, we have two newish cars (an 04 and an 09) that we paid cash for)

    4. live within our means, as modified by steps 1 & 2

  100. Economic downturns are funny things. It’s hard to say that one is worse than another, when in reality each one is worse for some people/sectors of the economy than it is for others.

    As a software engineer, the .com fallout was pretty bad for me, and while people I knew in the financial industries kept living large off fees from tanking portfolios, I made due by selling surplus equipment out of an unheated warehouse for an entire Lowell, MA winter.

    This time it’s the opposite. Investment in the software industry is strong, while financial industries are feeling the pain. I’m getting daily calls from headhunters while some friends families are living out of their cars as they drive the east coast looking for work.

    I don’t have it in me to worry, even in the times that were harder for me. As was said by jlmccreery further up in the thread, “There is more responsibility here than people willing to take it.” There’s always enough work to cover expenses if you don’t get yourself too far in debt, even if it’s not work that you’d normally do.

    What’s harder to avoid is the feeling of guilt when you’ve still got it pretty good and others around you are struggling.

  101. I love the free market. It is capitalism that has me out on my arse. Not the corporatist protection racket the Wall Street-Washington crowd has become. I do not fear for my country however. This still doesn’t count as the shit hitting the fan… I think of this as a wet fart and America can handle the bloody flux, if need be.

    Nevertheless, we’re likely to have to sell the house (mercifully, it’s in a good area and we are still well above water — and the house can sell) and move into a small house on my parents property. We’ve got no debt other than the house and a tiny student debt (<$2000), but with no income for the forseeable future and a massive aversion to debt, that's the way I intend to keep it. But, hell, I sort of like that I've gotten pushed out of a big law firm gig. I hated it and wanted to gouge out my eyes every goddamned day. Now I'm writing, actually spending time home with the kids, teaching them to swim. There will be less stuff around here and I'm okay with that.

  102. Great posts all around. I’m still employed (for now) but probably not for long.

    An observation- With all the talk of DIY, crafting that appears on BB it’s interesting that nobody ever talks about hunting.

    We eat organic, free-range venison, sustainably hunted in the neighbor’s alfalfa field. Combined with veggies from the garden we eat great and dirt cheap. Total cost per deer (about 40# of meat) is less than $15. The added bonus is a bunch of great days in the field every fall hunting with friends. It’s not just for Bubba anymore!

    I highly recommend giving it a try. Take a class from your state fish and game agency- they’ll get you started safely.

  103. IIRC, the term “Depression” was meant as a euphemism for Recession originally, but the name stuck and then it took on its more ominous meaning as the thing kept getting worse.

  104. It’s hard to say that one is worse than another, when in reality each one is worse for some people/sectors of the economy than it is for others.

    The difference between normal fluctuations in particular market sectors and a economy-wide recession/depression is that the latter is due to money (i.e. the medium of exchange used by “everyone”) “fluctuating” (aka the business cycle).

  105. ZikZak is right- start thinking about local autonomy and mutual aid. The question is not whether or not the end will come, or when, or how bad it will be. The question is what are you going to do if it does. Will you be ready?

    Someone upthread suggested squatting in the Embassy pub in North London, if it turns out to have been boarded up. This seems like an eminently reasonable idea. Your favorite restaurant closes and no-one else moves in? Get some friends together and start cooking. It doesn’t have to be guns and canned food and dune buggies and feather mohawks. It just be people working together and helping each other.

    I’m cautiously optimistic. I’ve got a decent job now, but I was unemployed and broke during the boom times a few years back. It was generally miserable, but I managed to stay in shape, and went to some of the best parties of my life (usually people in similar situations). I’m a little nervous about losing my job, but that’s mostly because I’ve become accustomed to the small luxuries it provides. I’ve done without before, and I can probably manage again (my liver will likely thank me). I’ve moved back to a country that seems to be weathering the storm slightly better than the US, and we still have universal health care, which is a huge relief.

    My two regrets are having acquired so much student debt (although if things get really bad, hopefully inflation will just wipe that out), and not learning a skilled trade (something I plan to remedy soon).

  106. 1. Encouraging my Rapture Ready relatives who farm on the Canadian prairies to be prepared for an influx of hungry high tech dude ranchers.
    2. Growing plants for seed and saving seed.
    3. Packing away about half a dozen sets of strings for my mando and guitar. A wandering minstrel I….
    4. Encouraging my kids to get transferrable and resistant to unemployment trades (I’ve been talking up my version of the collapse, which I refer to as The Correction, for almost ten years) which my kids have actually done; one cuts hair, the other can make eyeglasses.
    5. Living with relatives to save money and stave off mental problems caused by isolation.
    6. Sold my house during the last of the good times, against the very strong wishes of my ex. But I now am debt free, as is he, and mobile.
    7. Work in a business which is not currently experiencing layoffs but will, eventually, and I’m taking steps to increase my value to the organization.
    8. Gun licence. I passed the course but never got the paper. Now I will. Besides, there have been 12 shootings in 18 days here in Vancouver BC.
    9. Considering buying land I can grow food on.
    10. Staying on good terms with my neighbors, except that wickhead with a two car garage who tells my brother not to park in front of his house. Grr.
    11. Quit smoking in September.
    12. Have started talking to relatives about plans a, b and c.
    13. Seriously considering augmenting my survival skills as far as wildcrafting and living rough is concerned.

  107. I suppose I’m in the minority, but I view this as a time of endless possibility.

    I’m over educated (two masters, one in history on in library science) and gainfully employed. I live within my means and carry no debt. I have fairly good savings, been putting away 5-10% of ever check since I started working. I was in school for much of the mad expansion, and just starting out for the rest of it. Now I’m coming into my own in a time of contraction and see nothing but opportunity.

    And not to exploit people, but to be part of a generational shift towards a more sustainable, stable and caring nation. Apologies if that sounds too ‘hippie’ but it’s how I feel.

    There’s so much you can do, whether you’re unemployed, underemployed or overemployed.

    You can become part of “Solar Barn Raising” and help your neighbors save thousands on utilities.

    You can volunteer your time, even your unemployed time with a food depository and meet people in far worse circumstances and help them.

    You can record for the blind and disabled

    You can volunteer with the Big Brother/Big Sisters

    You can become part of city farming initiatives

    Sure, you could have been doing all this all along, but why not do it now, when things are dire and the need is so very great? Is it better to watch the latest pundit (a good number of whom spent years screaming for us to over-extend) read the dire tea leaves?

    We can build a better future. I’m in, are you?

  108. Cory: “My favorite Spider Robinson aphorism is ‘Shared joy is increased, shared pain is lessened’.”

    This appears to be one of the few things Robinson didn’t nick from Heinlein: near as I can tell, it originates with Goethe — “a joy shared is a joy doubled”.

  109. @ ZUZU:

    It was awfully convenient of you to reply to the first sentence and second sentence of my comment in two separate posts. It made it so that you could make your pedantic terminology analysis without taking into account that I didn’t actually use that terminology.

    Did it occur to you that I may have chosen the words I did for precisely that reason?

  110. I’m a little confused because I live in Ohio where the economy has been in the tank for two decades. It seems that only recently are people reacting to the recession, even though we’ve been living through it for years. It’s frustrating because nothing has really changed here (we’ve always had high unemployment, etc), but now that it’s a national problem, employers are getting shaky and talking about holding salaries constant, getting rid of retirement programs, or laying people off. What’s changed for them? Nothing. People are getting nervous only because the rest of the country is just now starting to see what a sad economy looks like. The doom and gloom is dreadfully contagious, and won’t help anyone.

  111. I thought I should say the restaurant shown in the image and the article is about 200 meters away from where I work, and I’ve been there several times.

    The inside decoration looks a bit like the psychedelic death sequence from the 70’s sci-fi “Logan’s Run”, the staff are as camp as a row of tents, and the food is some of the best traditional English tuck I’ve eaten in London (boar sausage and swede mash, anyone?).

    In short, the place is brilliant!

    Bizarrely enough, the business has actually made this method of payment work. Most customers actually end up overpaying out of the classic British sense of propriety.

    I have to commend them on their genius in capitalizing on British good manners.

  112. I’ve seen this coming for about, um, 8 years or so.

    A year ago I left my job that I hated, and I cashed out my meager retirement savings from before, and I paid off my car and my student loans. I’ve taught myself to eat cheap and live cheap and find fun for cheap. I have a collection of tools and I know how to use each of them.

    In the end, if everything stays okay then I’m fine and at the bottom with everyone else and have had an enjoyable vacation. If it all goes to heck in a handbasket then I’m about 20% more prepared than most people, and with a year of practice.

    If I may be indulged with a tin-foil hat moment – The problem is, the only way to get our rights back from us is to send us back to the stone age.

  113. Honestly? I think I’m in a good position — my job experience has taken me all over the maps, so I’ve got skills that apply to post-Apocalypse as well as “things are okay”…

    I’ve adopted a hope-for-the-best/prepare-for-the-worst mindset. Have been stocking a larder with canned food, and am preparing to build out boxes to put on the deck and fill with soil so that I can grow vegetables.

    I’m planning on buying a couple of firearms — stimulating the economy and hedging my bets. I’ve got military training, so I’ll have little problem applying them effectively, should it come to that.

    I’ve got bicycle repair skillz (10 years of part-time work as a mechanic), and a huge stock of spare parts (10 years of blowing my part-time paychecks at shop discount rates). Everything from the basics to the esoteric stuff. I can barter repairs in exchange for food, if necessary.

    Been adopting the Maker mindset and have been learning as much as I can about manufacturing my own solutions to problems, mechanical and otherwise. Just in case.

    My biggest concern is the home I find myself in — it’s a rental unit, which is fine. If the shit really does come down hard, I can’t imagine that my landlord is going to make the 30-mile drive to collect rent in cash form. Thing is, I’m in Minneapolis and it gets friggin’ cold here. I spent a weekend without heat in January due to a broken furnace. Within 18 hours, the inside of the house was hovering right around 41 degrees. There’s no fireplace.

    All that said, though, I’m not especially worried. I’m under contract through the end of September 2009, and I still have the bike shop job. I suspect in 6-12 months, the ship will be righting itself nicely.

  114. Since my business is going to shit (or maybe not, depends on the day) I’ve taken the opportunity to go batshit crazy. I start the depakote next week. With any luck the world should be back to normal by the end of march. We’ll see. If not, i’m glad i read all those articles about train hopping, because that’s the kind of hobo i’d like to be.

  115. Re: the comments from people saying “deal with it! live with less money! get that silly consumerism out of your life!”
    Some of us were not crazy consumerists ordering useless crap from IKEA and remodeling kitchens and driving cars and shopping all the time. “what can possibly go wrong? i have my wife and our new baby close to me, a roof over our heads and enough food to eat.” Some people don’t HAVE THAT.

    I graduated with my BA in May expecting to get a job in the publishing field, which promptly went into hiring freezes. I’ve always had savings, paid bills on time, never used credit cards – until now. After seven months of searching I found a part time receptionist job, got laid off. Now I’m on food stamps and a (very tiny) unemployment check, using credit cards to pay for everything those two forms of aid won’t cover.

    My family couldn’t afford our (rented) house so they split up into two apartments. Neither has space for me and my two kittens. Oh, and I’m $50k in debt from college, too.

    This is not all about people adjusting to poorer lifestyles. Clearly those people will be fine. This is also about the already poor losing whatever we DID have, and trying to survive.

  116. I’m holding out OK here in NYC. I work for a background-screening company, and as hiring falls, our business suffers greatly- I’ve survived several rounds of gut-wrenching layoffs and seen most of the Operations positions in my company shipped to Mumbai. I’ve managed to survive, despite having no IT degree or client-facing skills, through mostly luck – I’m low-paid enough that it’s not worth it to get rid of me, and have gained, through the years, such expert knowledge of my company’s in-house software and processes that without me, things would basically fall apart. There’s no one left around here who knows as much as I do about this crap.

    So I’m watching my friends suffer, trying to convince the uppers that my job is NOT doable by a team of script-reading drones in India (some of them very nice, but almost all of them incredibly difficult to train/teach/manage from here.)

    I rent from a friend of a friend who’s renewing our lease as often as we need to and not raising our rent. Luck.

  117. collapse? what? i live in the northeast, boarded stores are a way of life here. or, at least, for the past 30 years. welcome to the rest of the nation, nyc & san fransisco.

  118. I’ve been unemployed for a little over 2 months now and I have a variety of skills (mainly in the web design/production and art fields) and a degree. I’m not especially concerned that I won’t find work, it may just take a while. Luckily I have unemployment benefits, a loving (and gainfully employed) companion, no children to be responsible for, a working Xbox and I am resourceful in the kitchen. I don’t go out to eat anymore and tend to buy higher quality products for consuming at home, which has made me feel better about myself.

    An alarming amount of my friends here in town (Seattle) are unemployed and I like to think we’ll be ok. I am constantly terrified that the whole world is going to collapse, however. I think I’ll see it in my lifetime. It keeps me up at night.

    I’ve got a few debts and monthly bills but it’s all manageable. I’d love to be debt-free and not beholden to anyone but that won’t be possible for a few more years. I have no savings or investments to speak of.

    The working Xbox helps.

  119. I did nothing to prepare for this (I turn 30 in two months – like I saw this coming during school?) and I am currently doing nothing to stave it off except attempting to maintain the status quo.

    I’ve been living at home with my mom (dad passed away in ’01) for 3.5 years now (since I graduated from grad school). Though I initially wished to escape, I see no reason to do so now. I would rather contribute to paying the mortgage and help my mom with the bills than give my money to a stranger. So I have not yet moved out.

    I dislike my job and came to that conclusion at least 1.5 years ago. Though I would love to cut bait and roll the dice, I am staying where I am. I earn good money, better than I could hope for anywhere else, and my bosses are more understanding and patient with me than I could ever ask for. Better the devil I know. Perhaps one day I will seek something better, something I can enjoy and/or really get into, but I fear that will not be for some time yet.

    If I chose, if it were necessary, I could reduce my expenses to my car and student loan payments. I stink at saving money and I buy too much crap I don’t need, but I am attempting to reduce those instincts and at least save up a little. My credit cards are paid off and my student loan rates are locked (and the amount relatively low). I’m not in too bad a position.

    I am scared sh*tless. I’m not worried about losing my job. I am worried about losing my dreams and sanity. Now is not the time for me to attempt a radical career shift into a new field. I may yet send out some feelers, but I can’t jump ship without knowing something is there. I’m a bit depressed about it all and I really don’t know what to do other than ride out (which is simply a different kind of fear and pain). It’s been 3.5 years so far – I wonder how long I’ll be where I am.

  120. I’ve been working two angles at once to help buffer the changes: I’m expanding my skill set at work, and starting a business as well.

    Is this the time to start a business? I doubt it, but if you don’t try you never succeed.

  121. It’s quite possible I will be losing one of my part-time jobs soon – there were layoffs last month with the promise of more to come in March – but I’m not too worried about it. I’ve been looking for a full-time job since I graduated with my masters a year and a half ago, and while I definitely have some fatigue from constant job searching, I guess I’m optimistic I can bounce back with something else. Since this job’s not my field of interest, though, I don’t have any qualms about replacing one paycheck with another. Also, my sig other (a grad student) and I managed to make it for about a year with me having minimal employment. It was tight and wasn’t a sustainable situation, but it worked, and it will work again if need be.

    I definitely feel joy and pride about my other part-time job, even if it is less than 10 hours a week. There I do get to apply my degree and do what I love. I appreciate the paycheck, certainly, but I’d do it for nothing if it came down to it.

    I am lucky, to be sure. We have minimal debt and expenses, and we don’t have anyone depending on us. As an uninsured person I do wish I had access to cheap decent health care, but (knock on wood) that’s an area where I don’t have any immediate needs.

    I am concerned about some of my co-workers at the workplace that’s experiencing layoffs, though. We’re all friendly and keep a steady stream of humor in order to keep ourselves going, but things have been tense ever since the first round of layoffs. Most of my co-workers are 40+, have mortgages/kids/etc., and the combination of the local environment (we’re in Michigan) and their education/employment history would likely make it challenging for them to find a new source of revenue. Long-term unemployment for any of them could be devastating.

    I have an interview for a full-time job tomorrow, actually at the place I love to work at. I hope I get the job for a variety of mostly personal reasons, but I’m also hoping it could mean that someone else’s job is spared.

  122. Great topic, Cory. Thanks for starting the conversation.

    The most interesting thing about the current state of affairs is that my personal habits haven’t had to change that much to adapt, at least thus far, knock on wood.

    I went through a divorce in 2004 and was laid off in 2005. It took me a few years to dust off, lick my wounds and find another job in my field. The current gig pays considerably less than what I’d been making, but right now I’m feeling damned lucky to have it. I’ve been living pretty lean and socking away what money I can.

    After the layoff, I took in a roommate to ease expenses, which has helped considerably. I unloaded most of my surplus stuff, including several prized musical instruments. A dime is a dime.

    One ace in the hole: I managed to buy a modest house back in the mid 90’s when they were still cheap enough for someone with a meager salary to get into without a usurious loan. I’ve never borrowed money against my home’s equity. As a result, I now have no debt other than my mortgage.

    Yay for me, right? Well, there’s a price for everything. My wardrobe has always been clean but marginal and I’ve no doubt that cost me in terms of political, social and career advancement over the years. My home’s heat is rarely up over 56 degrees F. I haven’t travelled nearly as much as I’d have liked to, and I crash with friends instead of staying in hotels when I do travel. I’ve slaved away fixing my own broken cars in 30 degree weather. There are boatloads of books, records and CDs that I’ve passed up that I’d dearly love to have. I rarely eat out. And, it’s tough to take in as much education as I’d like, as tuition is so obscenely expensive now that I’d risk losing what little I’ve gained to pay for it… I’m still trying to figure out how to crack that nut. My line of work is at a dead end, I am now in my mid 40’s and I’m wondering what to do next. Despite all of this, I know that I’m a lucky SOB to have what I do and that I’m not sleeping under a bridge.

    One thing that’s definitely changed: I used to put anywhere from 10% to 15% of my gross into retirement accounts where I’ve worked. My reward: my retirement accounts lost 60% of their value since last year, still falling, no sign of recovery. Today, I dropped my contribution to 0%. For now, what I can do for myself with the extra cash is better than pouring more money down that rat hole.

    So, that’s how I’m getting by. Different day, same channel.

    My best advice to get through the coming days:

    Do what you have to to stay out of debt. Most especially, don’t borrow money for depreciable goods. If you don’t have the cash to pay for it, don’t buy it.

    If you are in debt, do everything you can to get out from under it. If it means ditching your expensive car with its expensive insurance policy and driving a beater or riding a bike instead, do it. Get by with that old computer. Drop your cable TV. Sell your excess crap, or even consider ditching it if it costing you money to keep it (do you own it, or does it own you?). Drink a beer at your friend’s house instead of at the bar. Figure out fun stuff to do that’s free or low cost. Paying interest SUCKS… think hard about who you’re paying it to… is it to the “masters of the universe” who got us into this mess?

    Become as useful a person as you can be. Learn how to do needed, tangible, real things that are useful to others and to yourself, and do them well. If you already have such skills, develop and expand them. I fix my friend’s cars (a LOT of them), repair their broken gadgets and help them with their projects whenever I can. In return, they’ve given me guitar lessons, got my backyard vegetable garden going, have let me use their beach cabin for free, have sewn and repaired clothing and helped me rehab my house and garage, among many, many other things. Perhaps the best part of it: being useful will strengthen your social network, an invaluable asset if the shit really hits the fan.

    Work is the best remedy for despair (I quote Martha Gellhorn). I have to kick myself in the ass and remind myself of this most every day, but I rarely regret getting myself moving once I do.

    To close: Years ago on a long bike ride with a ski instructor friend, I kept running over junk on the road and riding right into potholes and bumps, despite my focused efforts to avoid them. My friend finally said “look where you want to go, not where you don’t”. With that in mind, I’ve had more than my fill of apocalypse chic of late. I have many friends whose hobby is cynically droning on and on about it (seems to be a favorite at times here on BB, too… just sayin’). I’ve heard it all for years now, and it has gotten to the point where I really don’t want to listen anymore. Fuck the apocalypse. Move on. If nothing else, it’s a question of style. I intend to make living well my revenge.

  123. Well, Cory, it won’t surprise you to know I’m scared. I work for a trade publication for the auto industry, and I live near Detroit, and in my opinion it is only outright deception (due to valid fears) that has kept things running so far.

    As far as coping goes, my sweetheart and I are considering “green” ways to make our wedding happen. She’s a vet, and those skills will keep her paid no matter what happens in this crazy world.

    We rent now, but at some point we hope to get a home, which will be much easier to afford in this market than before. We have definite plans for solar- and wind-powered electricity.

    I want to delay having children right now.

    My employer struck all raises this year, but our company does not intend to downsize right now, so I am safe for the year.

    As someone very good at my job, I had been thinking of looking elsewhere, of moving closer to my sweetheart, but I cannot leave a secure job with student loans, a car payment, and rent to take care of.

    Oh, and I play Fallout 3, which teaches me how valuable clean water is, how ammo is easier to find than food, and gives me a way to whistle in the dark.

  124. Stupidly, I decided to quit my (low paying and not highly satisfying) job at a bookstore just over a month ago. I just graduated with a BA in English, and felt fairly sure I would be able to find something better than the $9.50 I was making. The recession hasn’t fully hit here yet – I’m in Vancouver, so we have the 2010 Olympics keeping the economy going. Alas, no one has responded to any of my job applications as of yet.

    But! I’ve taken this time to try out things I’ve been interested in doing for years: much more creative writing (although I have to keep forcing myself to do this), and blogging (at Disemployed – a fitting name, if not particularly linked to what I write about).

    Despite these creative ventures, I have to admit that I’m starting to feel panicked. This isn’t helped by constant reminders of the world’s economy sinking and many many many people being forced out of their jobs (after I quit mine…). But the sun is starting to shine, and I have the option of moving back in with my parents if I completely run out of money. In this, I’m extremely fortunate.

  125. No offense, but all you guys and gals in the USA who are thinking of roughing it in the wilds, how many people are you going to have to kill to make room for your farms? What’s the productive acreage, without artificial fertilizers, divided between 300 million? How much do you actually need to grow to get 2000 calories a day, and how much to get the 3 or 4000 needed to perform agricultural labour without machines, heavy horses or oxen?

    Really, honestly, unless you bank on eating long pig for a good few years first, thinking about constructive ways to rebuild an urban society is a whole lot better of a bet than planning how to survive in the wilderness…

  126. Two points:

    * Be aware of people selling fear. I’m thinking of the sharpies who thrived (for a time) off of:

    The Jupiter Effect
    Nuclear Doom
    The coming Ebola epidemic
    Avian Flu pandemic


    You know the type, right? They sell books, hold seminars, get a bunch of true believers thinking they have knowledge that give them an edge over the stupid sheeple . . . then fade away. But they can due harm. Stay away.

    * I’m a cautious and conscientious person. Had the good luck to dodge the Dot Com boom and end up in an uninspiring but very stable and remunerative tech job. The industry looks pretty recession proof. I save, save, save and invest cautiously. I have 18 months of living expenses put aside so I don’t have to dip into my “real” savings and investments if things go bad. No debt. I buy things cautiously. Never buy things I don’t have the money for up front, including cars.

    Over the last couple of weekends I sold about half of my books.

  127. For the past three years, my first few on my own after college, I’ve been working steadily at a tolerable job in a nondescript suburb, waiting for the day I’d find that big break to do awesome work in an exciting city.

    Not long ago, being stuck in a “good enough” lifestyle seemed a curse. Now I see it for the blessing it is.

  128. An excellent post, very thoughtful and well written. It could be that because I am in a vaguely similar boat to yourself (36, 2 young children) that I am considering moving towards your ‘model’: diversity of both industries and geographies supplying the family income. Right now we both work for the same employer, in the same location, so far so good thank god but just as with minimising risk in investment I think its time to start hedging.
    Plus we live in Ireland and as a country we’ve gone rightly to hell in a handcart.

  129. And Remember This:

    “Modern science has imposed upon humanity the necessity for wandering. Its progressive thought and its progressive technology make the transition through time, from generation to generation, a true migration into uncharted seas of adventure. The very benefit of wandering is that it is dangerous and needs skill to avert evils. We must expect, therefore, that the future will disclose dangers. It is the business of the future to be dangerous; and it is among the merits of science that it equips the future for its duties. The prosperous middle classes, who ruled the nineteenth century, placed an excessive value upon the placidity of existence. They refused to face the necessities for social reform imposed by the new industrial system, and they are now refusing to face the necessities for intellectual reform imposed by the new knowledge. The middle class pessimism over the future of the world comes from a confusion between civilization and security. In the immediate future there will be less security than in the immediate past, less stability. It must be admitted that there is a degree of instability which is inconsistent with civilization. But, on the whole, the great ages have been unstable ages.”

    –Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, 1925.

  130. All this panicked talk about not buying anything is only going to make things worse. How would you like it if it was your service or product that was suddenly not being purchased?

    For the vast majority of people who aren’t going to lose their jobs, the recession is going to have the short-term positive benefits of lower prices, etc.

    I’m not changing my behavior one iota.

  131. In 15 weeks I’m packing my bags, quitting my Toronto job and moving to the UK. Sure, it seems like a stupid time to do it, but it always seems like a stupid time to leave a relatively secure (albeit terribly boring) life for a completely uncertain future. World economics be damned. I may not know how far down the bottom is, but I’m diving in anyway. The worst thing that can happen is that I end up back in Canada. And that ain’t so bad.

  132. Some great comments up there ^^ thanks for sharing.

    I just started my own business, which is either good or terrible timing. I’m a roofer, but I have a very different business model to traditional construction – I’m ethical and sustainable and pretty uncompromising about this.

    I supply and fit renewable energy systems and green roofs alongside trad roofing, but with a nice sensible ethic – I’ve also incorporated a barter strategy into my payment system, people can work for me on the job as labourers or can trade me something I need, either materials or fruit and veg or another service, like mechanics etc.

    So far so good, I decided not to compromise my business model to get work and it’s paying off so far. Luckily I’m fairly resourceful and am learning as many new trades as I can as I go so I can cover most bases if need be.

    My partner has been out of work for 6 months now, when we were only expecting a few weeks. I’m sure she’ll get something, but we have no idea how long it will take. we are very much digging in for the long haul, we’re looking for an allotment and already bake all our own bread. we are slimming down our needs to interact with mainstream consumer society (something we want to do regardless) and are trying to save. Our long term plan is to buy land and build some kind of super awesome eco house on it where we can live off fresh air and dreams. luckily I have enough dreams for a whole village, and the Lake district over here in blighty has enough fresh air and beauty to keep the most miserable soul topped up with happy.

    If all else fails I’m gonna set up a unicorn import business.

    Chin up, stiff upper lip and all that.

  133. I’ve been laid off twice in the last 9 months – both when the companies I worked for disappeared under my feet.

    I’m a single mom with two kids but I’ve managed to save a chunk of money and even though it depleted somewhat in the first layoff I’m better off than many of my former coworkers. I can ride some of this out for a while.

    That being said, I’m still pretty optimistic. I haven’t got any debts whatsoever and my biggest expense per month is rent.

    However, I’m very angry that my family’s wellbeing could be so affected by a handful of bank and government people in a foreign country (U.S.) – and those people will walk away rich without a trouble in the world while so many suffer.

  134. @#13

    You live in the desert where modern infrastructure provides you water and other necessities – I live in AK where we would all freeze to death and have nothing to eat without fuel and goods from the global economy. So I share your sense of discomfort!

    But I don’t share your hope that “people survived here before all that” so we can too – I’m an archaeologist so I know better. Not to be a downer, but:

    1. They didn’t always survive. Famine, warfare, disease, etc. More than you would think. Sometimes you had to put the old folks out on the ice flow – sorry Gramma and Grampa.

    2. To the extent that they did survive, there were a LOT fewer of them, and distributed around the landscape very differently. I don’t think we could do it with the current population.

    3. Their survival was dependent on a stupendous amount of local knowledge, very specific skills that take a lifetime to learn, and an entire community of people with that knowledge and skill. A person or family can’t do it on their own. That whole off-the-grid back-to-nature thing has always struck me as very admirable but clearly impossible for more than just a few folks in very specific situations. Try eating local up here – we can’t all move to somewhere warm and farm a little plot.

    Even if we did get to the point where we needed to get back to that model of living, it would be very painful to get there.

    So what gives me comfort is human ingenuity, our capacity to learn from experience, and how quickly things can change. Plus a generous dollop of denial that this is actually happening.

  135. Is the grass always browner on the other side of the fence?

    So I’m a migrant worker for the Animation Industry here in L.A. I left behind a wife and three little kids to find a job in a most volatile industry. It was her idea! I am working but for how long and where next are constant thoughts. I can live frugally out here, ride bikes where I can, comics are my one vice, send the money home and use Skype to see the kids.

    My wife is the financial whiz so she knows where the deals are. We bought a house that we could afford without an ARM. Thought about moving to California and had our place up for sale about a year with no takers. Gigs out here are transient with no employee loyalty. Studios are closing or downsizing left and right. We decided to keep our current arrangement and I fly home when I can.

    About $25K in CC debt. Some from Wedding expenses, car expenses, babies, pet surgeries. Plans to consolidate debt or financial consultation keep drying up when no one is working and both 401Ks are liquidated to pay the mortgage. Trust me I want it all gone, too.

    Kids are healthy, wife is coping/keeping the wolves at bay, I’m working on cartoons, dog came out of surgery ok, saw the kids on their birthday, had a date with the wife. I’ll be back in 8 weeks.

    We make the best of it and try to support each other. Hopefully the kids won’t remember any of it.

  136. I agree with Toast that the panic factor is one of the biggest economic pitfalls we face. I’m trying to focus on putting my resources towards businesses and systems that I want to survive this meltdown. There are a couple of nearby shops that stock handmade clothing and soaps and I make a point to budget a little money for goods in these independent businesses every couple months. Keep the local economy moving I say…

  137. Weirdly enough, the so-called “collapse” has relieved my anxiety.

    I’d been expecting the wall of mirrors to fall over for so long I was starting to doubt myself because it hadn’t happened. Maybe the neo-cons were right? Honestly, the last eight years have been progressively more nerve-grating as the mistakes piled up with no apparent effect, and Americans happily drove their hummers to the mall to buy more products of chinese slave labor.

    Now, since my understanding of cause and effect has been validated, I feel less anxious, and I need no longer fear my investments in a sustainable lifestyle were unwarranted.

    I apologize if this seems insensitive to those who are suffering through no fault of their own.

  138. Growing up in the ‘Mad Max’/’Red Dawn’/’The Day After’ cold war 80’s I’ve been waiting for disaster all my life. Now I feel like the kid who’s been studying his line for the christmas pageant and the curtain’s about to go up- I’m scared but I think I know what to do. In the Great Depression people walked to California to find… something. My grandfather sold bottles of soda on the side of the road until he was old enough to lie about his age and join the Merchant Marine. During the war he joined the army and sold used coffee grounds and tea bags from the Officers Club on the black market in the nearest town. He buddied up with a guy in the auto pool and secured used motor oil and other ‘waste’ materials to sell. He bought or traded for luxury items from the french and sold them to other soldiers- cars, watches, etc.
    The lesson to be learned is that when the going gets tough the tough find a way to make a buck.

    ‘Keep yourself to your self
    keep your bedroll dry
    cause you never can tell
    what the shadows hide
    keep one eye on the ground
    pick up whatever you find
    cause you’ve got nowhere to fall
    when your back’s to the wall’
    Steve Earle

    ‘I can skin a buck and run a trot line
    And a country boy can survive’
    Hank Williams Jr.

    Where the hell is our Woody Guthrie?

  139. I doubt this will be read (being so far down the thread) and it’s probably just as well, given all the hope upthread. There appears to be something of a consensus (between the lines) that we’re looking at a slow, orderly decline. I don’t agree. My glimpses of the 4th dimension indicate massive societal violence ahead, on a government to government and person to person scale.

    The trigger events of September 15 were just a suggestion of how quick and huge the fail is going to be. The more advanced a nation is, the greater the suffering will be (my fellow Americans, good luck and adiós). The dollar will disappear overnight, stopping 98% of commerce. Transportation will halt, including the movement of food and other basics. It doesn’t take much imagination to see where it all goes from there.

    Gardens don’t grow overnight, bartering as common exchange doesn’t arise in the midst of a violent societal breakdown and cooperatives will not form whilst an “every man for himself” attitude pervades the scene. These notions may come to play amongst the survivors, but it will take longer than you might expect, and in the context of a badly crippled world whose sense of trust will be severely tried.

    Unless you’re willing to shrug your shoulders and cast your fate to chance, you’d be best to de-invest in currency, now. Take what money you have (or can scrape up through liquidation of your toys and such) and purchase (what might seem, at the present moment to be absurdly large amounts of) practical items, plywood, screws and nails, fencing, chicken wire, seeds, pipe, black powder, cement, vitamins, industrial gases, charcoal…I’m sure you get the drift.

    Stop yourself from picturing this all a couple of years out as it will happen, for all intents and purposes, tomorrow. Without meaning to dash your hopes to bits, what’s coming is going to be far darker than what this community’s expectations of it seem to be.

  140. 4 years ago we’d just re-elected bush, and I was deciding where to go for grad school, to get my phd in Computer Science.

    I thought a little hippy college town in central indiana would be a good place to hide out for a while.

    I can’t say that Indiana has a lot of *positives* to recommend it, but it misses a lot of negatives… thoroughly landlocked so we’re missing the more exciting global warming effects, cheap cost of living (*central indiana*), good public transportation system and a small town anyway (so we weren’t hurt by high gas prices), no issues with police state politics (lots of liberal professors heavily involved in local politics, real estate, community groups, etc…), bounteous local food supply (weekly farmers market 11 months of the year) so we didn’t worry about high food costs this past summer. We even have two tiny little chains of competing local organic grocery stores.

    So, that’s worked out. I’m a grad student. I teach, they pay me… not much at all, but that’s ok. My car’s paid off, I’m debt-free, my rent is low, and if my boyfriend and I cook most of our meals it’s not hard to get a net gain out of the month. Ever since I left home I’ve always waited on any major voluntary purchases (major clothes buying, tech, appliances) until I had birthday/christmas money (usually $100-$200) and then I buy things that last. So we don’t have a flat screen tv, we don’t have a wii, I don’t have a j crew wardrobe, and until recently we didn’t have cable tv. But we get by just fine.

    I was worried that I wasn’t finishing my degree as fast as I could be… but I think I won’t mind hiding out here for a little bit longer.

  141. Is there a name for the people who see this coming, unapologetically chanting “BRING IT ON”(x3)? I’m just wondering if there’s a label for the way I feel, that the correction will be a good thing to eliminate the dead weight and extraneous BS. I’m thinking those who subscribe to Kunstler… sort of the equivalent of atheism to religion. It’s there, but it’s not out in the open so much. Gaia is shaking off the fleas.

  142. I’m not at all scared of the prospect of massive “economic downturn.” I actually find it kind of exciting. Like a big adventure…

    It isn’t fair though, because I already know what to do. I grew up in a poor family in semi-rural Ohio. We grew our own vegetables, sometimes even chickens. We never bought anything new. We fixed anything that broke. We dumpster-dived. We bartered. We had tons of friends and family and so had a community for support. Even though I am squarely middle-class now, I still live like this. I’ve never bought furniture or even a TV – they’ve all been found or given.

    I do worry about how the middle class are going to survive. I think the poor already know what to do. For people like me, bad times are second nature.

  143. I’m a little worried about my position at a decent job, only because I don’t trust the new director. I think he’s been brought in to be the “ax man”. How ever, my little team kicks ass, so there is hope. I hope to keep this job for the pay, health benefits and 401k.

    Personally I have no debt except a reasonable mortgage. I live pretty simply, no tv (therefore no huge cable bill), and I try to utilize free stuff and events when I can. The library is a great source.

    After a year’s search I have finally found some land to farm with a business partner. We will sell at the local farmer’s market, supply ourselves and possibly some local restaurants. This will give me some extra money, grow wonderful, clean food, take care of a tiny part of the environment and make me happy.

  144. @145 SaturnBallistica

    ME TOO! I feel like a jackass, and a stupid one, having to fight off the panic attacks that arise from listening to too much NPR.

    But I’m quitting my stable, pleasant job in a month to move to SF. I have no savings and nothing lined up.
    But, I’m young, have no responsibilities (i.e. children) and nearly no debt (save a couple hundred bucks on a credit card).

    I figure, now’s as good a time as any to leap off that cliff into the void.

    This to me doesn’t feel like a crash as much as a shift. People are reframing their relationships to everything- food, family, goods, work. I may have to shovel ditches for a while, but I’m excited at the prospects of what comes from the other side.

    And, to be honest, when the apocalypse happens, I sure as hell don’t want to be here in LA.

  145. My neck is stuck out, my left foot is on the limb of the highest branch…

    I say: BRING IT ON!


    Because this economic crisis is *really* an economic transition. And that transition is towards an economy and ecology encouraging a sustainable planet and a healthier way of living.

    The bottom that’s falling out is falling out of obese, greasy, outmoded, outdated, grey, fat, wrinkled operating systems.

    More and more, we are going to have to get real cozy with the great, modern, furturistic yet ancient way of living in harmony with nature.

    Naturally, the planet offers what the human species needs.

    Does this mean giving up things like the Internet, for example? No. But it does mean we really need to put our thinking caps on (and our dancin’ shoes) and really build the world we want to live in and live with.

    Now, this doesn’t mean I’m all smooth & green and rosy and hoppin’ & skippin’ – it’s tuff…

    real tuff

    … and I’ve got friends with children and homes and all that stuff who work in the financial sector, and sure, they can get many jobs, but just as quickly as they get them, the business closes up shop. I feel for them.

    Also, I like to eat and I love mangos. My mango is brought to my stomach via financially driven systems. However, in a post financially transitioned world – I would have to figure out a way to grow (and share) mangos.

    Ya get me?

  146. For those in the “bring it on” camp, I recommend the movie Le Temps du Loup (The Time of the Wolf). It’s the most believable vision of real collapse in an industrial society that I’ve seen recently, at least more believable than Mad Max/Red Dawn (however awesome they are). It paints a pretty grim picture.

    The thing to remember is that the ones who will do well in a Cormac McCarthy “The Road” type scenario are not only the ones with skills or the ones who are prepared, but the ones who are prepared to work with other people. Even in small-scale societies living very close to the land, people can’t just go it alone (in fact, social cohesion is extremely important for these groups. “Robinson Crusoe” is only really possible in very particular and rare circumstances, and even then the isolation alone may be the deciding factor.

    A voluntary group, working cooperatively together may mean the difference between rebuilding society or working cooperatively in an involuntary group, a return to feudalism, or worse.

    We just get by however we can/ We all gotta duck when the shit hits the fan.

  147. I’m getting along pretty well so far.

    The Start-up I’ve been working at for a little over a year is doing very well right now, with more work coming in than we can handle. (Know PHP or even Drupal? Live in Boulder or willing to commute? email me.) My wife’s doing well too, both health-wise with her losing weight and her job doing well as well. We’ve finally got the extra house that we’re saddled with (long story) rented, and the money is coming in from that and helping out.

    So far the collapse is something that’s not hurting myself, thank goodness, but we’re working on reducing our debt just in case. I haven’t really heard of any friends or family who’s having trouble either, which is nice, other than ones who had trouble before and are still struggling.

  148. I too hit young adulthood in the late 80’s and so grew up in the UK with recessions, strikes, political unrest, mass unemployment and the constant spectre of nuclear armageddon. I figured there wasn’t much to be done about the big issues but I could make myself useful to society in case the world didn’t end. So I stayed debt free through University by working in care homes and psychiatric hospital as a nursing auxiliary and now I have a skilled professional public sector job which is in demand and easily portable. When the economy was booming in the UK I got sneers for my relatively meagre wage compared to peers at Uni who went on to high flying City jobs. Now the world economy is contracting the same sort of people will think me overpaid.

    I’m good at my work without being a high flyer and have lived, worked or studied worked on four continents. I can’t see my current employer wanting to lose me in a hurry, which is a relief as four of us depend on my wage and we like our home. But if it came to it we’re flexible enough to move again. We’ve always been relatively frugal and sought to minimise our debts by paying upfront and paying off the credit card each month. I don’t see that changing recession or not, so we’ll just sit tight and hope to ride it out. If the worst really comes then we live in a country that can feed many times it’s own population…

  149. @Boba Fett

    Oh, one can choose any road, scenario or situation and make it so. That’s the scary part and the exciting part.

    So which do you choose?

    It’s quite obvious isn’t it. Everyone’s going to choose their personal fav. And make it so.

    So, Dream Big.

    Make it so.

    Sounds cheesey, sounds cliche – but that’s the reality being built; Big Dreams growing from the compost heap of Dashed Desires.


    You want industrial collapse movies (with a happy ending)?


    Detroit Wildlife:

    “Detroit Wildlife is a taster video to find a production in France. I shot it this summer 2008. Detroit was known to be the city of car industry, with General Motors, Ford and Chrysler : Motorcity, the city of the Big Three…
    Now, 4O years passed from the beginning of the crisis, and the vision of Detroit that other people have around the world is more a Mad Max picture than anything else… When I was there this summer, I found something else, really, very far from this reputation : I founded great people, wonderfull landscape, and a life rather pleasant, after all…
    What I learned this summer, is that Detroit was there before the cars, and it will be there after… ”

  150. I have a professional degree in Something Completely Useless (jewellery making) and am about to finish a university degree in Something Also Completely Useless (American studies, and prehistoric archaeology). I am, however, remarkably unconcerned about the economy.

    I never believed I had much of a chance on the job market. You don’t pursue the kind of education I have because you believe it will provide you with great job prospects. I live in a country where so far people without a job don’t have to starve, exactly, so as long as the current system still works, I’ll be able to survive even if I don’t find a job. I do expect to find *some* kind of work, though, so hopefully I won’t need to make use of my country’s social services, or at least won’t have to do so for long. I’m completely willing and in fact expecting to work a thoroughly unfulfilling and underpaid job, because, as I said, I am aware my degrees are economically useless and I have no other useful skills. But even with a useless university degree I’ll still beat a person who doesn’t have *any* degree in the job market. (Which sucks for the person without the degree; I know.) So, I’ll survive, at least for a while. I think.

    What really worries me is the ecology, not the economy. I have read up on climate for the past six months and have concluded that worrying about something like saving up for my retirement etc. is ridiculous in the situation. This realisation removes a lot of pressure from the way I plan my life, because it means I don’t have to earn enough money to save up for later; I believe it’s unlikely any system I could pay money into now will still be around when I’m 70 or so. (That’s 38 years from now.)

    Also, achieving a successful career looks suddenly very unimportant if you look at the larger picture.

    I figure there’s only one thing that *really* makes sense for me to do with my life in the current situation, and that is to become an activist somehow. I *am* going to finish uni, because I’m almost done with it (four months to go), but after that, I think I’ll start looking *hard* for an organisation or project to start getting active in. At the moment, I really think I’d like that – whatever it’s going to be – to be the main ‘thing’ in my life. If I believe there’s an impending catastrophe, I should put my money – or rather, my time – where my mouth is, and fight it, instead of concentrating on achieving a comfortable level of consumption and social status ;-).

    I’m kind of grateful that I’m realising this at a point of my life where I’m not already mired in job&family&multiple financial responsibilities…

  151. It’s late. The Crisis of Capitalism, I mean. I called it 40 years ago. Boy, have I looked like a fool But now…

    We can get to doing what has to be done:—Smashing the goddamn State and starting over!

    We communists never give up.

  152. Oh, I’m not praying for the collapse, but without sounding too Chumbawamba-y, I’m definitely in the work together, “Let’s Build a Car” camp.

    It’s not surprising that wildlife is returning to Detroit, it was actually built on some pretty decent farmland with good natural transportation. Were it not for some pretty significant heavy metal pollution in the soil, it would probably make sense to plow under a number of the abandoned areas and grow food. Don’t worry though, if it starts getting too nice the Canadians will just come and take it again ;)

  153. As my last guru said: “This too shall pass.”

    To which I’ll just add: It’s only as real as you want it.

  154. Greatest comment thread I have ever seen.

    We are all worried, but I gather most Boing Boing readers are pretty resourceful innovative folks ready to tackle anything.
    I really enjoyed #165 from Morgan about Detroit. I happen to work at Ford and have been able to make it through numerous job cuts over the past three years where Ford has shed almost 40% of it’s White collar work force.

    My plans if it all comes down? Stay with my extended family like I always have. Between my wife’s family and my own we have multiple engineers (electrical and mechanical) nurses, teachers, a psychologist and an IT geek (myself). I also grew up in a small town in Michigan’s Upper peninsula where I learned to hunt and farm. We will get by just fine.

    However, I really hope things never get that bad.So many people are completely unprepared for anything like this. Detroit is filled with people who have been living off the Government their entire lives. If the Government ceases to exist what do they do?

    No shortage of guns around here, but food and fuel will be scarce. I have no intention of staying in this area IF the shit hits the fan.

    I honestly believe the USA will be just fine in the end. Tough times are ahead, but this country is filled to the brim with innovative, creative thinkers and rugged individualists capable of some incredible things.

    We will change, things will be different, but it will all be O.K. in the end.

    In the mean time I will continue to enjoy my Scotch nearly every night with the occasional Absinthe. MMMM

  155. Oh, forgot to mention: obviously, living frugally is an important part of my plan for my immediate and medium-term future. I’ve been doing that for the past thirteen years, no reason to stop doing it now. Also, staying healthy would be great, especially in case of a greater social collapse, but my health’s at least partly out of my hands, so I can’t really say that I ‘plan’ to stay healthy. I just plan to try. ;-)

    But, yeah, the absolutely essential thing will be joining the fight to prevent an even worse collapse than the economic one.

  156. Sigh..

    So a couple of months ago, I was at a playoff game (woot Steelers!!) In a club box with a bunch of folks I didn’t know. (we were invited by friends who worked for the guy) So all I know is the owner of the company is in the box and the economy issue comes up…

    I hear someone saying that they wanted to go buy a LCD television and that they were unsure which kind to buy. Then the owner of the box and the company says.. (somewhat verbatim) “Dude, the way the economy is now, ain’t nobody buyin’ nothin’! You should just wait..etc..blah blah”

    Now, if its just me isn’t that the solution to the problem? Consumers should just buy as usual, (I know I haven’t stopped). If you have an extra couple grand and you want to buy a television…I think you should go for it! Just because you think that the economy might affect you, doesn’t mean you should stop living.. I mean isn’t that what the terrorists want? (sorry that was my inner bush administration.)

    Sorry, I just don’t buy into the whole media: hey guise we r in a resesshun! Public: O noes! Bettur stop spendin monies!…..and the downward spiral begins.

    Not to be flippant, but we here in the States have the opportunity to work as many jobs as we want, 1, 2, 3.. whatever your body or situation can take…not everyone has that. To me if you had a job that made 20k, and you can only find a job that pay’s 12k…you best work another job. I am a mostly blue collar/service industry worker and I have plowed my way into management, so I make a decent wage. but I’ve worked my share of OT/2 jobs. You do what you have to do to get the job done.

    Work outside your field, try something new, get involved with it. If you don’t like it, who cares! You need to eat/sleep/pay bills right? Just could be dealing with some of the injustices experienced in countries that don’t have even the opportunity to work.

    Be thankful! Be Hopeful! Try something new, you might just find a new niche. Hope this inspired at least one person. Thanks and cheers~!

  157. An interesting read so far. Although I’ve been around the interwebs for 10 years, it still amazes me we can be having this global conversation with such ease.

    I’m writing this from the perspective of a retired, disabled vet who is 65 years old. Apparently much older than many of you. I’m fortunate in that I’ve always lived rather frugally. But I certainly still feel the pressure, both financial, and psychological as that which we’ve always known to be seems to have the potential to be no more.

    My perspective of this depression, as that is what I believe it to be is that life is cyclical. It comes and goes in waves, and has always been this way. So as an optimist, I’m inclined to believe that this too shall pass, and that in the process, it may become better for all of us. That being said, I think the prognostications of Orlov, James Howard Kunstler, and others have a very plausible ring to them. It is certainly one possible outcome.

    So I find myself in fear of two things, social instability, and hyperinflation. Should the remedies now being implemented, and the adjustments of us all not be successful, I can see a very distinct possibility of social unrest, and worse. I cannot see how the money printing frenzy can result in anything but hyperinflation, ultimately.

    It has been heartening to see some of the ideas that thread themselves through this discussion: A belief in our innate ingenuity, the ability to adjust and do with less, the world of friends and family with which we surround ourselves, and a stubbornness that has borne us so well to this point.

    So I look forward to an interesting trip, and agree “don’t panic”.

  158. A cheaper brand of Scotch. Old phonograph albums instead of new CDs. It’s pretty much all Business as Usual to me.

  159. Well I’ve just been on an overseas trip to ski in the Canadian Rockies. And I spent almost all my savings which is the best thing I think I could do.

    I think the hoarding that people are starting to do is going to cause this crisis to get a lot worse.

    I’d like everybody to imagine what they are going to do as we come out of the recession. And start doing it as soon as they can. Take a risk if you can and encourage those around you to spend money on things that will get at least their local economy turning over.

    And tell me if you think I’m wrong.

  160. DOKTORH said:

    don’t watch the news. ever. i firmly believe that modern news broadcasts are constructed to induce paranoia and general unease.

    Nothing unusual there – the news is designed to keep you rivited to your seat, soaking in the helpful commercials between sensationalist reports.

    When are happy stories run, at the very end of the broadcast, right before the Seinfeld rerun… (Oh look, this is a good one, about George finding the Frogger machine he played as a kid and got High Score on!)

  161. What am I doing? Mainly living in denial, focusing on my job, making sure my kids are happy, well-adjusted, and eagerly awaitng the day when cast-of computer parts are worth their weight in gold. OK, it might be a long wait, but I’ve got a HUGE pile of old computers ;^)

  162. I’m pretty secure in a job I can’t see disappearing any time soon. It’s a Government funded not-for-profit organisation that I can only see becoming more important if everything turns to shit. (We’re a voice between industry needs and Government action).

    I’ve had a few friends lose jobs, but most of them have been through their own mistakes. It sucks but it probably would have happened regardless of any recession.

    Meanwhile I’ve joined a band (something I’ve been trying to do for about 4 years) we’ve got gigs every week and making music I both like and think has the potential to get us recognised at least in the local scene.

    I’ve got a girlfriend I love dearly and live in a house with very close friends whom I would not trade in for the world.

    I see the current situation mainly as a time for the Australian Government come to its senses on a few issues. We’re in tough times certainly, but tough times are usually followed by some good decisions that put things back on track. At least for a while.

    I’ve also become more politically aware than ever before and write letters to various MPs trying to convince them to make some smart decisions. Currently they don’t seem to be doing the best job but hopefully they’ll see some light soon.

    Nothing like massive fires and floods at the very same time to make a Country aware of the dangers of Global Warming. Nothing like a recession to make the Government aware of the need for new industry. To me the solution to both of these issues is fairly obvious, hopefully the morons running the Country will see this soon [or the population will demand it].

  163. i buy nothing useless and i do not throw away anything useful or in working order. my eeepc 900 is my main computer now and i do not intend upgrading anytime soon. even if i can afford it.

    senseless spending is not helping the economy, at most it could give it a gasp of air. but those workers in car factories and the such will be laid of even if you buy a hummer for charity. if you want to do something useful and you can afford it lend that money to someone you care about instead of “investing” in useless crap.

    as i see it this is an epocal shift, much like the early 20th century. the world is not going to end (probably) but industries and society will. as always the weaker will suffer and the wealthy will shrug it off.

    saving resources and relying on family and friends is the only thing that the average joe could and should do.

  164. I work full-time in a semi-technical capacity, pushing papers, fixing Perl code, wrestling with databases, and other tasks that will probably be done with weak AI in matter of years, depression or no depression.

    I’m surprised and comforted by the number of fellow mutants who, faced with adversity, are starting businesses! I’ve just started one myself, a small data recovery business, in an attempt to supplement my income and pay off my car and my student loan from a botched education. I’m trying to price the huge, expensive data recovery firms out of existence, so come on down to!

    We seriously need some sort of a BB trade union :-)

  165. i thought this year would be a good year to make some changes, maybe go to uni, get a new job etc.

    then i found out our lease isn’t getting renewed on our house, so i need to save for bond and a rent increase, so i figured, sure I’ll just delay the study idea until I’m re settled.

    than my employer laid off 200 people, and now i am fearing for my job security, I’m not sure where i am going to be in the next 3-6 months.

    and the job market is looking dire, I’ve applied for about 30 jobs in the last 6 weeks and only had 1 interview.

    the worry of the layoffs have me freaking out about the prospect of being unemployed while trying to find work (I’ve been working since i was 15 without any period of unemployment I’m 23 now) at the same time as trying to find somewhere to live. I’ve got some savings but I’m not sure how far they will go.

    plus now I’m worried about trying to apply for a new house/apartment and not having an employer.

    and the jobs i have been able to see in the last couple of weeks are now offering less than what i make at my current job which isn’t much.

    i don’t have any family i can live with if things turn to shit. and I’m afraid that if i do lose my job and have to find other work that is not as good as my current job that I’m going to be forced to choose between rent and food.

    the thing that scares me the most is how many of my friends feel like they are in the same situation. and they are all well educated, smart people, either working full time, or part time with their band’s on the side. none of us own property, or have extensive debt, most of us are too young to have even considered it. but now it feels like we have been forced into a situation we have no control over, by invisible people and institutions that have no right to affect us and cause such fear and anxiety.

    i feel trapped, and i haven’t had a decent nights sleep for a couple of weeks and it sucks.

  166. Both wife and I pretty well educated, in diverse fields. Hitting 40, 1 toddler, hoping for another soon. Reasonable mortgage, little debt, live modestly. Child care a big cost. Do see signs that my job may be in jeopardy…some fear there. Wrong time to have another child…?

    Coping by…stopping 401K contributions…getting more savings in cash to have a 3-4 month buffer…knowing if one of us loses a job, we can switch to be the child care provider and save cost there. Joke about moving back home to parents if things get real bad! Eating in a bunch more. Thinking twice about big purchases…”the washer/dryer are loud and old…would be nice, but let’s hold off” kinda thinking.

    Fears are there. Probably not for us…but for friends/family who aren’t in good predicaments…hard to see us stretching to help but might need to…guest room changes to housing for out of work family member…

    Living in SF we’re used to living near some bad areas. Some fear, probably irrational, of how much badder crime might get. More breakins/car thefts/assaults/drug use from more people getting more desperate. Worried for daughter/wife…

    I’m a complete moron on this, but: Does crime generally go up with recessions? Do high crime areas get worse/stay the same? Maybe middle class crime goes up? Does drug use go up?

    (sorry…have had a few muggings on our corner and a tweaker, who recently left, thank god, so gun shy here. And we live in a fairly nice part of town!)

    So not sure how to cope with that fear….

  167. I try to keep hope up that both the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center actually began construction during the Great Depression.
    As a props person in theatre, I’m on a constant search for work regardless of the economy; though now, it feels scarier now during my unemployment periods, since I don’t know how long they’ll last.
    I agree with a lot of the other commenters here; when you can’t get paid to do the things you want to, it’s time to do the things you want to that you know you won’t get paid for.

  168. @#153

    You have no evidence of your dark future. Its says more about your mind set then about human reality. Historically, there have been darker times for less prepared people, and they survived, sometimes flourished. Just because “gardens don’t grown overnight” doesn’t mean people can’t start shifting to a new way of thinking to help them thrive in difficult times. You’re only stating opinions as facts and applying your attitude to the world with little evidence. Grow up.

  169. My strategy for coping; visualize the future you want and do what you can to share that vision and realize/make it. Though I’m not a professional writer, I find it therapeutic and focusing one’s thoughts on things larger than oneself helps -a little- to alleviate anxiety while participating in progressive/constructive group activity can help overcome the sense of solitary helplessness such times foster. And the role of armchair futurist can be a lot of fun -well, intellectually if nothing else. One must try to stop thinking and acting like a victim and surf the change.

    Here are some of the things I’ve personally been doing to date;

    •Have become more active in the Maker, P2P, Post-Industrial, and Space Development movements.

    •Devised a self-funding 50 year plan called Luz Azul for stopping Global Warming and ending world food and energy shortages while creating millions of jobs and presented it to the Buckminster Fuller Challenge and Ideablob.

    •Proposed the creation of a Maker Incubator community called Vajra,

    •Proposed the exploration of P2P community development through adaptive architecture.

    •Proposed the creation of an international Maker Publishing Cooperative to help move the Maker movement from hacking to more concerted open industrial development by gathering and providing key knowledge resources.

    •Been cultivating and proposing designs for open source automobiles, modular machine tool platforms, and PAD-based network distributed computer platforms.

    •Wrote some ad copy for and helped promote a new plug-in housing construction platform based on T-slot profiles, which I hope will eventually evolve to open source and radically alter the nature of the housing industry by radically lowering labor overhead and disconnecting the value of land from the value of what we build on it.

    •Been working on a T-Slot Sourcebook to give this and other similar building systems more mainstream exposure.

    •Been working on and proposing an international Open Space Development program open to public participation and focused on telerobotic outpost/colony development. (few people can be astronauts but a lot of people can make robots and participate in the Best Model Train Layout Ever -the kind you can eventually move into)

    •Have been looking for regional support for a native American community Fab Lab.

    •Offered some small contributions to the Global Village/Factor E Farm and Afghanistan Fab Lab projects.

    •Been cultivating my home business in textbooks with a plan to shake-up the college textbook industry and academic communities while providing free textbooks to students.

    •And my biggest pet project has been a comprehensive revision of Marshal Savage’s marine and space development plan The Millennial Project called TMP2 -a comprehensive plan for an entire new civilization, currently about 200 articles and counting. Hoping to get the first near-shore marine eco-community going in the near future by combining T-slot housing technology with currently available ferro-cement platform systems from the likes of International Marine Flotation.

    •Music helps too.

    Much of the despair today is the product of a cultural malaise rooted in a couple generations of Cold War inspired millenarian dystopianism. We got where we are now because our society has been too backward-looking for too long. So afraid of a future we assumed for so long could only be apocalyptic that our culture as a whole turned away from it in favor of nostalgia, fantasy, and denial. Even science fiction largely gave up on the future in favor of fantasy. And ultimately we created a kind of apocalypse out of simple neglect. But we should be mindful that despair is another kind of complacency. There’s so much to do! Roll up your sleeves and get out there! Surf the change!

  170. Tod(…):
    This is not America. This is the Intrnet. There are people from very different places here.
    American-centrism gets me cranky…

  171. I bought a flat with my (now ex)BF a few years ago, we split, now we need to sell. Negative equity means I’ll have to borrow more money than I ever dreamed I’d owe, to get rid of it. I’m sure I’ll cope, as long as I still have a job.

    I dream every day of the Fight Club style end of the world, where all the banks collapse and we owe no-one anything. That is my heaven.

  172. I work in TV in Los Angeles, and right now I’m doing fine because I have a show on the air (“Life,” watch it Wednesdays on NBC, it’s really good!). If that show gets cancelled, we’ll see.

    In the meantime, my union gives me sensational health care, I have a ton of money saved up, and I’m getting married cheaply (which will bring my soon-to-be wife into my insurance). I have a small credit card and we live within our means.

    The bad news is she has substantial student loans to pay off, and we’re going to need a new car soon. But we’ll see how it goes.

    A vegetable garden sounds like a great idea though.

  173. on the kubler ross scale, I’m stuck in angry.

    Our business is doing ok (for the moment), we don’t have debt, we’re making our bills.

    but: since we have always busted our asses to save money, live within our means, get a fair but not absurd financing on our house, NOT live on extended credit, pay down our debt, etc… I’m angry at the people who ate their cake and mine too. I’m angry at first time home buyers getting a huge break they couldn’t handle and f’ing it up by biting off way more than they could chew. I’m angry at the shoddy agents and bankers who encouraged this behavior. I’m angry at silly start-up businesses eating up lines of credit and loans for un-needed, un-wanted, disposable-income retail stores and frivolously expensive designer goods. If they’ve had to shut down and board up the ‘custom onesy’ or ‘fixed gear bluejeans’ shop tough crap and good riddance. I’m angry at a failed education system, a failed news media and a failed government. I’m angry at people who have put the blinders on and drank the koolaid, believing that they can get something for nothing, that it’s ok to have 20 credit cards and spend spend spend, that living beyond their means is some kinda ‘right’. I’m angry at a litigious society that views lawsuits like the lottery – a way of getting money for free while clogging up the system with frivolous cases. I’m angry at copyright laws that hamstring free speech and instill even more wasted hours in courtrooms.

  174. I decided to not renew a couple of magazines that I had lost interest in. Why waste the dollars/trees? I got absolutely the nastiest dunning notice from the subscription service for Hearst Magazines over my lapsed Esquire subscription. Really insulting and degrading, like I was a deadbeat and owed them a renewal of my sub.
    I think it will be a while before I feel like paying money for that magazine again, or anything else from Hearst.

  175. Well, in some ways I’m not too worried about my own situation: I’m funded for the next 4-5 years to get my PhD done. It’s not a lot of money – CAD$21k a year, and my fees come out of that. But, I’m not too worried about it disappearing.

    And I have two cheapish laptops – one just good enough to play Eve Online and work on, and the other a first-gen EEE. With the free software available for Linux + the Internet, I can entertain myself indefinitely.

    Otherwise, I’m living frugally: cooking large pot meals with cheap ingredients (beans, potatoes, dried peas, lentils, etc), much in the style of pre-1950s food revolution cooking; cooking Japanese style meals, with plenty of rice, soy products and cheap vegetables, buying as much of my clothing and furniture second hand as possible, and the remainder at cheap surplus outlets; keeping my entertainment cheap ($14 a month for my Eve subscription covers a lot of my leisure time, while the internet in general covers a lot of the rest, and I can indulge in hobbies like home electronics and snowboarding for not very much)

    But yes, the environment worries me, and it’s not just climate change. I’m worried about fish stocks and food security in general – crashing economy or not, people need to eat.

    I’m worried about the political situation over the next several years – already the UK has been showing signs of rising fascism (“British jobs for British workers” and all that, not to mention the surveillance state stuff). And by all reports, the recession is hitting the UK hard. For that reason, I’m worried about the continued integrity of the EU – it would suck if the UK left (or got kicked out).

    I worry about the U.S. – there’s no telling what the they’ll do if things start to go properly bad, although at least we can expect more empathy from Obama for the rest of the world than out of his predecessor.

    And South Africa – we seem to be economically stable, more or less, but our president-to-be is a fairly scary individual. Meanwhile, climate-wise, South Africa is water-poor, and the desert is growing.

    But, all in all, we shall see what we shall see. In many ways I’m optimistic, since I think a necessary condition for the survival of the human race is the curtailment of excess in first world lifestyles. If this is what it takes to bring that on, so be it.

  176. Hmm, perhaps I have some disconnect, but my only concern is the money the government is pissing away. Granted I live in Wyoming and we aren’t the types to fall for every program to come about, economy is strong and most people are going about business as usual, eating out, going to the movies. Just made reservations foe our vacation in August, also leave in June to fly to San Diego for a long weekend. So those who are stuck in the big cities, paying high taxes, good luck to you. This has happened before, we”l climb out of it regardless how badly the government tries to screw it up. Imagine, the congress that set the stage for this disaster are gonna fix it? oh yeah

  177. I believe the government will soon supply us all with free vodka.
    We can spend a lot of time playing checkers and rummy.
    Who the heck likes work anyway! I think we all can get on a permanent bailout scedule like the others. We can retire, get welfare, disability, or do something so we will be put in jail where we get free clothes, free meals, and 6′ by 6′ apartments that are very easy to keep neat, and all kinds of love sans vaseline. I think people in Cuba have it good too. They never have to worry about getting new cars. The dogs and cats may all disappear, but for now we will all eat well! Have an exercycle rigged up with a generator a tv and a vcr and a thousand old videotapes to watch and stay trim at the same time, if the grid goes down. A cyanide pill if all else fails.

  178. “How are you coping with collapse-anxiety?”

    Cory Doctorow’s post poses an interesting question, but unfortunately, his rather unsubstantiated assertions that “…this is the best time in history to have a worst time — the time at which our capacity to do things in a way that’s outside of traditional economics is at its highest. It’s never been easier to come together to have fun, to make stuff, to change things” seems counter-intuitively upbeat and is contradicted by the actual reality of both our current economic situation and, more importantly, the ominous future prospects, given the facts of the financial fiasco only now just beginning to unfold.

    The real question to be asked is how things will be a year or two from now, when I predict the general outlook will be considerably grimmer, based on what is likely to occur between now and then.

    As Doctorow says, “My little family is probably OK — we have a diverse set of income sources, from a variety of countries and industries — but nothing’s certain.” Well, how very nice for him; much of his perspective can probably be attributed to having an income relatively higher than most people, which can skew one’s perspective on the likely impact of the coming depression on the vast majority of people not just in the U.S., but around the world.

    Interestingly, in the thread of almost 200 comments following Doctorow’s post here, most note how they’re doing at the moment, and the vast majority of commentary is similarly semi-upbeat and optimistic. I suspect the greater silent majority has a considerably darker view of the future, but probably feels it pointless or too painful to make their countervailing views known.

    However, I think a counter opinion is required and specific facts and obvious trends should be clearly explicated that belie the untoward optimism of those who figuratively are wearing rose-colored glasses while whistling past the graveyard about to erupt with ghastly consequences.

    Being nearly 20 years older than Doctorow, and having lived through 3 or 4 prior recessionary periods in my adult life, I can tell you this one is very different, and of a scale that will be much deeper and longer than anyone can currently predict with accuracy, but based on my reading of the financial indicators, this period shares many signs of being as bad, if not worse, than the crash of 1929, which led to the great depression, and lasted 10 years.

    Worse yet, the interdependency of capital and credit markets, and interconnected world-wide trade, combined with resource depletion, ecological damage, overpopulation, and the passing of peak oil (our energy mainstay), creates a double-whammy which may not allow recovery for a generation, if ever.

    We have been living on borrowed money, and time, for decades now, mortgaging the future of our children, and have strip-mined the carrying capacity of our planet’s resources while irreversibly polluting our ecosystem, and most still do not want to or cannot face these incontrovertible facts.

    Our generic blindness to this reality for decades will be our undoing as a civilized species, as the current enfeebled bailout attempts and continued divisive Republican politics of obstruction and corporate compromise of effective action are unlikely to solve the essential problem, and may even accelerate and make the problem of financial viability and liquidity worse over time due to short-sighted and self-serving ideological reasons. I should also add I have no great faith in the Democratic party in being able to resolve the problems facing us, either, even though I try to maintain a liberal, but pragmatic, outlook. We face foundational and structural difficulties that challenge any current political solutions being offered.

    This crisis originated in America, under an ideologically-driven administration and Congress negligently ignorant of economic constraints, willful destruction of proper financial regulation, a ruinous multi-trillion dollar war, denial of global warming while promoting insane energy policies of continuing oil dependence for the purpose of serving the neocons’ multinational corporate masters for extraordinary profit at the expense of humanity and sustainability, and we have lost a nearly a decade of opportunities to make crucial decisions in the most critical timeframe that was available. That chance, and time, is now gone, and the new administration is faced with the ruin our last one has left it, and us, to deal with.

    Only this time, the greatest capitalist financial power in the world has exposed itself as being a vast, wildly over-leveraged Ponzi scheme, based on rampant greed and deliberate avarice, and now rapidly approaching bankruptcy, and there are no timely or realistic means of extracting ourselves from the onrushing disaster, as only our production capacity and the last world war afforded us over 60 years ago.

    There will rise increasing political tension, fascistic and ultra-nationalistic protectionist tendencies, and in a world with eight or more nuclear powers, diminishing energy, food, and water resources, and increasing population and inadequately managed complexity, within 5, 10, or 15 years at the outside, things will begin to break down and fall apart. Then things will really become horrifying. I could go on, but why bother–you get my drift–you realize the implications of these trends.

    The “cusp of terminal dissolution” is now upon us. I fervently hope I’m wrong, but after serious consideration, research, and analysis, I don’t think so. God help us. Oh, and since I’m agnostic, I doubt resolution is possible via that means, or any kind of deus ex machina, either. Prepare to dance the Apocalypto, or the danse macabre.

    “Something wicked this way comes.” –Ray Bradbury

  179. Intense

    What a load of melodramatic sensationalism.

    Cory’s assertions are no less substantiated than your own. And yours is a worst case scenario, if ever there was one.

  180. danse macabre

    It’s always been.
    That most of us who post here are privileged not to see it speaks of how it’s framed.

  181. “Something wicked this way comes.” –Ray Bradbury

    I think that’s actually Shakespeare. The Witches from Macbeth IIRC.

  182. I’m hoping that it isn’t too late to chime in on the events of the day. Last night I finished the last part of a 4 part documentary called “Century of Self”. I found a link to it from an economy blog several months ago. Suffice to say it was very illuminating to see exactly how our consumerist society was enabled/created/herded. I have two words for you Edward Bernays.

    The story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud’s ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn’t need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires.

    Bernays was one of the main architects of the modern techniques of mass-consumer persuasion, using every trick in the book, from celebrity endorsement and outrageous PR stunts, to eroticizing the motorcar. His most notorious coup was breaking the taboo on women smoking by persuading them that cigarettes were a symbol of independence and freedom. But Bernays was convinced that this was more than just a way of selling consumer goods. It was a new political idea of how to control the masses. By satisfying the inner irrational desires that his uncle had identified, people could be made happy and thus docile.

    I’ve never posted here before, so forgive the first post including links and all..

    Century of Self Episode 1 HAPPINESS MACHINES

    Century of Self Episode 2 THE ENGINEERING OF CONSENT



  183. We are committed to keeping our kids from having any educational debt. Educational debt is a cultural and economic disaster. Here are some of our strategies.

    – Our kids use the local community colleges for the first two years. They have been able to get state money (based on GPA and doing some community service) which pays the whole first two years tuition.

    – Our kids have lived at home instead of going away to college. That has saved at least $8k-$10K per year per kid. We get along with our kids and they with us; it’s a joy to have them here. For those who cannot live at home because of family conflicts/situations, it’s still cheaper to rent an apartment with 2-3 other roommates than it is to live in a dormitory.

    – Our kids take public transportation to college, and get subsidized bus passes (i.e. they pay about 1/2 of full fare.) One kid’s university even subsidizes the regular discounted bus pass fare (it’s cheaper for them to do that than build new parking lots/garages.) The extra walking is good exercise for them, too.

    – In high school, our kids took college classes *at the high school* for very low tuition ($50 per credit hour, about a 60-70% savings.) The class was taken at the high school, taught by high school teachers with grad degrees, and the credit was offered by one of the local universities (where one kid has transferred after finishing at the community college.)

    – For kids over 16 years of age, another option is to take community college classes *on site* at the community college while still enrolled in high school. One kid of ours did that too. The tuition, again, was $50/credit hour. In some states (not ours, unfortunately), the community college classes are *free* to high school students. A smart kid can get about 1 year of college equivalent in his or her last two years of high school.

    – Take online classes for college credit while in high school, again for reduced tuition.

    Also, each kid doesn’t get their own car; they share an old Buick (still in great shape) when they need it, and borrow mine as well.

    Too many people think that expensive college, away from home is an *entitlement,* and they don’t count the costs of purchasing that experience with high debt.

  184. Uncertainty can be thrilling. Nature wired us for anxiety and fear, it keeps us alive when threats materialize. But it’s part of our animal nature.

    Our human experience is enriched by the mystery and fascination of the unknown. Uncertainty gives us fear, yes, but it also gives us hope. How long could a person endure knowing with certainty everything that was going to happen to them? Life would be going through the motions and become unbearable.

    Writer Ursula Le Guin said it best:
    “The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.”

    Embrace a new dawn – it will be better than yesterday’s dark night because we will make it so.


    Yes, you are correct. Thanks for the edification, as it were.

    From Wikipedia:

    “The phrase “something wicked this way comes” originates in Act IV scene 1 of William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. The speaker is the second witch, whose full line is, “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.” The wicked thing is Macbeth himself, by this point in the play a traitor and murderer.

    “Like many phrases from Shakespeare, it has become a popular choice for titles in pop culture. Its enduring usage may be due in part to Ray Bradbury’s novel of the same name.”


    danse macabre

    “It’s always been.
    That most of us who post here are privileged not to see it speaks of how it’s framed.”

    Well, that’s a somewhat opaque and rather oblique turn of phrase, but if the manner in which my response was framed leads most here who post to somehow “not to see,” or perceive the danse macabre I obliquely refer to as unreal or the scenario I am suggesting is absurd, and to thus consider that a privilege, then I would refer you in turn to my other comment about the wearing of rose-colored glasses. I guess a certain degree of of self-delusion can lead to hope and denial of facts, although the eventual consequences are often rather severe.


    “What a load of melodramatic sensationalism.

    “Cory’s assertions are no less substantiated than your own. And yours is a worst case scenario, if ever there was one.”

    Well, your mileage may vary, as they used to say on The Well back in the old days. Melodramatic sensationalism? Doesn’t that all depend on the outcome, over time, and the plethora of economic indicators now obvious? I’d have to say, even though it is my personal, humble, predictive opinion, that my assertions are quite a bit more grounded in substantive current fact than Cory’s or apparently, presumably your own. And yes, it is a worst case scenario.

    I would ask you, how do you see the near future unfolding, and how do you think, in practical, specific terms, America is going to be able to crawl out of the dark hole I and various economists see us slipping rapidly into? I’d really like to know–the current bailout strategies have been attempted before, like in Japan, and to a much greater degree, and prospects for additional trillion dollar bailouts are even more comprised here through political gridlock and lack of real funding (meaning further foreign loans) than ever before. You can claim I’m wrong, or out to lunch, but I suggest it’s incumbent on you to at least note how and why, and what the alternative scenario may be, based on pragmatic considerations and realpolitik, not wishful thinking.

    My comment was intended as a counterpoint, based on my own experience and to express a perspective less relentlessly “optimistic” than most other comments noted above. I could very well be wrong. I sincerely hope so, and admit or said as such. But if I’m even partly right, then what I said contributes to a cautionary balancing of opinion, and an impetus to not assume either the best, or worst, of what in any event will, I believe, turn out to be a very bad and very long depression, not recession, at the very least, and should be a spur to at least consideration, and counter debate, if not action. That’s everyone’s choice.

    But all too often, the nature of boingboing’s content, and related comment threads, imho, reflects a kind of distance from and elitist attitude toward what most of us in the “real,” blue-collar, or lower/middle-class range of society and economic or educational privilege see as a kind of academic or unrealistic detachment from having to work hard in a typical job, or self-employed and on the financial edge, or even unemployed and/or homeless. People in these situations or “classes” if you will don’t often post comments here, and I just thought one of us should, in order to illuminate the alternative view, and more gritty reality we live in. You can take it or leave it as far as I’m concerned, but I felt it necessary to make a comment from a different perspective than is very often seen here.

    Perhaps you, and others, should consider their options, and courses of action, just in case it turns out that I’m at least partially correct about just how dire our current, and most crucially, near future may well be. I suppose you could pray, or simply say, that I’m wrong, but that isn’t likely be very productive, or add to the dialogue, now is it? Tell me how and why my perspective is wrong. I can be fairly reasonable.

  186. @ INTENSE,

    I am sorry my comment was not phrased clearly enough. Let me try again:

    Most of the people who post here are privileged enough not to see the danse macabre that has always been there. Warfare, epidemics, absolute poverty etc have always been present, but structured to occur overwhelmingly at places far removed from the majority of the anglophone elitist Internet world (or at least boingboing world) in order to ensure the safety and survival of that sphere. Within which, the question is framed: “will the danse macabre approach us? yes/no”.

    So concerning the graveness of the situation, and how its outlook can be influenced by “class”, I couldn’t agree with you more. Thank you for putting it so eloquently.

    When I say that the world is due for a change, I am saying it for my great friends many of whom did not make it to Cory’s age, who also had kids to look after.

    Rosy-cheeked? I need that to keep myself going.

  187. @NYAM:

    Thank for your even more eloquent and thoughtful reply to my curious, questioning comment. It provided a personal illumination or enlightening that explains better than I had realized what you were expressing. Sorry to have come off as possibly overly dark, but I live in a suburban area 20 miles north of Sacramento (Rocklin/RSV/Lincoln area) that, up until a couple years ago was the fastest growing sprawl region in all of California, and seeing the rapidly growing number of suburban mall storefronts closing, the number of unsold or repo’ed McMansions only a few miles away, and the loss of over 100,000 jobs in my general NorCal region has been devasting.

    While I mentioned others maybe seeing things through rose-colored glasses (blinders?), I would also concede, from my side of things around here, it’s all too easy to see things via dark sunglasses when business gets personal, and one cannot find a job that pays much over minimum wage, let alone a sustainable living. 20 years ago I was billing $40 to $60 per hour for Mac consulting, and now I find that if I want to degrade myself by fighting for an hourly wage a bit more than a tenth of that, a generation later, and compete with teenagers and 20/30/40 somethings, I can try, but even I got such a mundane job, I know I couldn’t stand it or live on it. As Vonnegut once wrote, Hi Ho.

    Maybe we all need to try and take off our various colored glasses and filter blinds, and look around a bit more clearly as a consequence. I still have hope, even though it recedes by degree as things get tougher. Mea culpa and all that.

    Time for the old Hunter Thompson mantra of “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro” or at least try to get a bit more creative in creating value, product, or resources to earn money. I was self-employed (owned my own business) for most of my adult career, and may have to become rather inventive once again.

  188. Interesting thread. Unlike many posters here, I’m not a doctoral student living in a friend’s basement. I have a wife, four kids and even if I had the time to grow a garden, it wouldn’t grow the chicken nuggets and waffles that constitute 75% of their diet (no, they’re not obese, yes they’re very active. They just don’t like food, which in these perilous times might not be all bad). Fortunately our debt consists of the mortgage and a relatively modest car note.

    I know that I live an “easier” life than 99% of every human who ever lived. I have every modern convenience, antibiotics, clean water, a lady who cleans my house, a kid who cuts my grass, and good child care. But as the song says “Sadder still to watch it die than never to have known it…” I fear that my addiction to HDTV, microwave popcorn and a hot tub have softened me to the point that while I believe I have reached the very pinnacle of evolution I am instead the most unfit to survive.

  189. I’m a 64 year old divorced bankruptcy attorney who emigrated to the U.S.A. w/my non-English speaking parents at 5 years of age. We were so poor that we lived in a cold water apartment till we found another one with SOME hot water. I had one pair of sneakers, one pair of school dress pants (jeans were not allowed in school then), one suit for the weekends when we visited family (that’s right–no restaurants or even movies).

    Yes, I’m making more money now than I ever dreamed of and, since the economy is getting worse all the time, I’ll be making more money. But I’m not spending it on stupid little things. I just bought two condo apartments in Manhattan as investments. I go to a restaurant once a week, just have five moderately priced suits, three pairs of dress shoes. No matter how much money I make (and I’m paid in cash at least half of the time), I can’t break old spending habits and when I die, my two children will have a wild time spending all that $$ in less than a month!!!!!

  190. Intense

    The single glaring dominant feature of the global financial crisis is uncertainty. You find me a projection of catastrophic failure, I’ll find you a projection of rapid recovery. Markets are trying to plan for either.

    The IMF describes the world economy as facing a deep downturn, but are anticipating global economic output moving upward again in 2010.

    Its going to be a rough ride.

    On the other hand, you’re calling apocolypse within 15 years tops. I’m calling bullshit on that.

    Offering balance is great, but your tone is condescending. IMO this was a brave and sincere post from Cory that sparked a flow similarly sincere posts from the community. Your inaugural address just pissed all over it, it was bad manners.

    Obviously this community is writing, to some extent, from a particular cultural perspective. There are plenty of threads here dealing war and suffering. To argue that because people are talking about their own experiences in this thread and not acknowledging the existance of suffering and hardship elsewhere at the same time, they therefore lack perspective and live in ignorance and priviledge, is just being snarky.

    Your point was better fleshed out in your later posts, and extra points for quoting HST, but I see no need to frame your observations as a criticism of this community.

    I really hope your work situation picks up and things work out.

  191. Tak @ 213 – My lovely mac alu keyboard is now coffee flavoured. my thanks! a pleasant antidote indeed.


  192. My line of work is bringing a lot of people to my door suffering from increased anxiety and depression. One of the things I ask them to do is to concentrate on that which is within their control and try to let the rest go. This current economic slow down is almost global and so many of us are sharing the anxiety.
    Let us use this opportunity to challenge one other thing that has cost people their peace of mind before this crisis occurred; the belief that we can have it all and have it now. This unrealistic expectation has been causing folks worry for many years. Identify activities which you can do for free and when things get better, endeavour to remember them.
    And if you are worried sick, then send me an email and we’ll chat – no charge.

    Glyn Morris

  193. I have been getting prepared for something like this for a long time. Maybe it was being raised in a semi-apoctalyptic cult. I was raised by evangelical bible-literalists. The end of the world was pretty much something one dealt with every week. The post from one woman about being raised in Texas sounded a bit familiar.

    Anyway, first it was the Antichrist, then it was Y2K, then the NWO. For reality-based concerns, it was sitting in California thinking about earthquakes while watching the U.S. government (not) respond to Katrina and the drowning of a major city. Living near Oakland, and listening to the rest of the country shriek in terror about San Francisco values, well, let’s just say I didn’t think I would get much help or sympathy from my fellow murkins.

    All this has led me to prepare, Prepare, PREPARE! Sometimes, I know not what for. But Be Prepared is pretty much stamped on my Id from waay back.

    So, first order of biz was to pay off the house, the car, credit cards. Then, get the most reliable used car possible, because I didn’t want to pay the note on a new car.

    Question for you: what will be the last fuel made from petroleum? Answer: diesel. Why? Because the Military uses it in all their trucks. Also, in a pinch, you can rig your older diesels to run off veggie oil, or make bio-diesel if you possess spare time and the wherewithal. And if nothing else, trains and other large-motored rigs run on it, too.

    So with all that in mind, I went to the auction and bought a fixer-upper, a 1982 Mercedes-Benz 300D. These cars are known for going over 300K miles without a rebuild. This one only has 175K.

    Now, Money. Got a job a long time ago with a boring old-fashioned utility, the Phone Co. Most mundane job in the world. Also fairly stable. I was once envious watching others pick up jobs in the dot-com world, then felt much better about it along about Y2K. So I’ve stuck with it. Only thing I hate is watching the surrounding workgroups disappear, when their work is transferred to some group in a right-to-starve state. Mostly Texas, although some has been moved to other states of the Confederacy since the BellSouth merger.

    Being Californian means your somewhat less secure, when your corporate overlords are in Dallas. They’ve been a little Bushy since they took over.

    I’ve been listening to all sorts of sources over the past few years, from Krugman to Roubini. But Tom Tomorrow had a fab cartoon from a couple of years back about the sub-prime thing, and it was spot-on, as our cousins say. But I knew for certain Doom Was Near when a real-estate agent came *knocking at my door* to ask if I felt like selling my house, because he was sure he could sell it for a *Half-Million*Dollars! Yeah, $500,000!

    Why the exclamations? You should see my house! A half-century-old Eichler tract house in an East Bay suburb near a decommisioned weapons station, within blocks of a BART station. In other words, this isn’t a Craftsman or a Victorian. It’s not even unique. It’s one of about 600 others in a tract development from the 1950’s!

    And you want to pay me whaaat?!?

    I tried to talk the wife into it. She wasn’t going for it. Not the biggest regret of my life, losing that argument, but it’s definitely in the Top Ten.

    I also knew that This Could Not End Well.

    So, I parked the 401k in the safest option available, and started saving and not spending. So us, personally, we’re OK. We’ll be OK.

    But, oh, the neighborhood? Not so much…

    There’s been an overall quieting-down, from less overall activity. Used to be, you’d see construction, homeowners making improvements, trucks bringing in new appliances and furniture, younger families with nice cars moving in to their starter home. That’s gone down quite a bit. I don’t see too many of those families around now. I see houses sitting for sale for a long time. One house around the corner has been for sale for over a year. A house a couple of doors down was foreclosed, then sat empty, then was for sale for many, many months before selling at auction. Someone is in it now, but they seem very withdrawn.

    On the bright side, we were able to finally afford getting some work done on the house. Tradesmen are happy to get any work, it seems.

    I don’t know what will happen. I’ve seen us get through skinny times before, and as long as the whole system doesn’t implode, I’m thinking we’ll get by as we always have. And since we didn’t follow Dubya’s admonition to Go Shopping, we’re better off than a few of my more Republican friends and relatives.

    But I do have some bad nights. That’s when I turn off the news for a few days.

  194. You should worry

    this is going to be spectacularly bad for non-essential workers in the west

    there is a massive oversupply of labour globally.

    Any job that allows you to spend time reading trivia on boingboig is probably that is unnecessary and will soon exist.

    We are very far from the bottom on this.

  195. I’m coping with collapse anxiety by designing an independent money and equity system based on a synthetic commodity to be administered as a “public good” that scales with the size of the population that relies on it. No one told me I couldn’t do it so I did it. Nyah. :)

  196. I’ve been basically avoiding most of the financial headlines that scream doom everytime I open my yahoo page. But, last night — I watched Bill Mahr and he kept harping on about the banks collapsing and it freaked me out. My father had a Dickensian time during the great depression, and it’s been the bogeyman of my life. Everytime we have any financial downturn, I say “is this it, is the what was foretold to me by the elders?” But my dad always told me it would never happen again with the banks because we had the FDIC, and that made me feel better. Then Mahr said we were’nt allowed to mention the banks in trouble, but — we can rhyme them — and the “shitty bank” sounded a lot like my Citi Bank. So my 401 has tanked, and now do I need to be in a panic and go get our savings out of Citi Bank? Will my wife’s gig hold out? Will I get this gig I’m up for currently? Will my sister’s husbands keep their jobs and their kids in college? What’s going on in the country that went bankrupt? Is it Thunderdome over there yet? And what if the great earthquake predicted for California finally hits — will that be the event that destroys the last bit of wealth we have? The only thing that comforts me is being able to go to sleep forever, and not having to worry if I was nice enough to get in the place where the nicest people in all the world’s existence live.

  197. I have a kind of different viewpoint.
    My parents lost everything in the last recession, and both dropped into a deep depression, depending on me (last kid living at home while going to college) to keep things going and broker the bankruptcy while playing nursemaid to my mother, who, while functional in public, lost all touch with reality in private. All that responsibility and no authority eventually broke my health.
    These days I have my degree, better health and a wonderful husband with a firm grip on reality.
    I’m unemployed, but my husband is securely employed (so far). But I’ve already seen the bottom of the poverty abyss, and I know that we won’t fester in denial, but will act as a team to do whatever we need to do to stay fiscally sound, fed, and together.
    There’s a lot of fearlessness in having already been through some of the worst.

  198. Sorry to hear about everyone’s problems.

    I’m sure we’ll make it through.

    I, myself, have just finished up my MA in the UK and sitting around waiting for my work permit. Even if I wanted to work, I can’t. So I’ve been getting by with freelancing.

    And I wrote a book.

    That being said, does no one find it ironic that the post above was written by someone who had a pretty privileged upbringing? Not to mention the fact that he was able to move to one of the most expensive cities on the planet (London) to ride this thing out. Oh yeah, and also still have enough cash to have a kid and not worry about it.

    Let’s not forget that he also runs one of the most popular web sites on the planet where he continually flogs his own books, lectures (£10 pop) and all sorts of other goodies.

    Which is as it should be. It’s his web site and they can put anything they want up there.

    Compare that with the woman above who had to take care of her bankrupt parents while she was in college, or the kid who grew up homeless and has never been out of work.

    Obviously it was a great thread topic (look, even I’m commenting!), but taking a look at the source, it came off as a little patronizing.

    Next time have someone else start the thread.

    Nothing personal. Just my .02P.

  199. I’m going anonymous because as far as quality of life goes, this one spans the spectrum between suk and yawn. How am I coping? I’ve already been there, but it was awhile ago. Way back in the day when George Bush Sr was telling us there was no recession, I was bumped out of my decent NYS job & wound up having to work for the archdiocese of NY. I had been working with psychiatric patients & now was going to work with dual diagnosis (IQ 21-50, as well as a psychiatric dcdiagnosis) post-adolescents. I was also taking a 50% pay cut for the privledge. NYS subcontracted their care to the archdiocese because it was cheaper than paying real salaries, but you do get what you pay for.

    I wound up getting sucker-jumped and attacked by a big, strapping young man with an IQ of 26. He had previously attacked 2 other staff as well as patients, and displayed no warning before he struck. But the archdiocese was getting $299/day for his care and were reluctant to send him to a more secure setting.

    Now, years later, it seems this was the gift that keeps on giving. From one day to the next I have no idea when the pain and muscle spasms may start. Without medication it’s off to the emergency room for iv treatment. With medication, I have to sleep sitting up & try not to move. This may last a day, a week, or off and on for longer. So, even during the economically stable Clinton years I stood as much of a chance of being hired as Bernard Madoff does making it out unscathed from a room of his investors.

    Though I wouldn’t mind Bernie’s money, even the small fraction which isn’t blood money. My Workers Comp disability is a fraction of the salary and amounts to $226.66 every 2 weeks. I live in my parents home. I took care of my mother while cancer devoured her body and mind, running the house, filling in the siblings (checking in from lucrative jobs, families, real lives). Now I run the house and take care of my father. Although he is in his 90’s, he is alert and somewhat active. But he came from a generation where men stopped working when they left their job. And as anyone who has experience with they elderly can attest, the body doesn’t work the way it used to. Rarely is it better. Mostly its just messier.

    So, for all you people who are looking towards an uncertain future, I’ve been doing that for 16 years. If you can take care of the essentials (food -go vegitarian, its cheaper and healthier, shelter, and a dog), you are doing ok.

    Beware the cheap fast food. You’ll be hungry later, it packs on the pounds, and you’ll need to spend money on clothes. Buy overproof vodka and flavor it yourself. Check out local Freecycle groups before buying anything or throwing anything out. Give what you can. There are always people who have less. And keep yourself healthy. That old saying “if you haven’t got your health” etc, is true. When this thing turns around (and sooner or later it will), you’ll be working and spending. You’ll also have stories to bore your grandchildren.

  200. For what is worth, I’m leaving my well-paid job as a Web project leader and following my dreams. I recently got my license to be an official Tourist Guide of the city I’m living in, and couldn’t feel more excited.

    And they tell me tourism is the most sensitive sector to a recession! Pah! Good times are ahead :-)

    PS: 13+ years of being a Web guy can make you bitter, alienate you, or all of the above. Be careful, kids :-)

  201. America may reel from the loss of its feng shui consultants, scrapbooking shops, car detailers, and professional dog walkers, but take heart! As long as there are still cellphone-cover kiosks in the malls, we’ll pull through.

  202. As someone who lived in San Francisco all through the ’90s, and watched it become impossible to “have fun and do cool stuff” without “stupid amounts of money,” i say good riddance and hurray for the collapse.

  203. > And then there’s the environmental question: how bad? How fast?

    It’s booming economies that commit maximum ecological destruction, not busted ones. This may be obscured in the U.S. and Europe because our countries hire foreigners to do our mining and manufacturing for us, and a lot of our agriculture as well. But don’t think you were ever doing rainforests or endangered species a favor by getting rich.

  204. Good mental and physical health first. Prepare by taking care of your immune system and bolstering it. Where there is poverty and famine, there is disease. With a kick ass immune system one can outfox even potentially deadly viruses and gain antibodies without ever becoming ill. So take vitamins, supplements, get plenty of them to last a long time. Eat as healthily as possible. Reduce stress where at all possible, including interrupting “scary thoughts” about what’s going on now with TOOLS: example: distraction skill (read, watch a movie, take a walk, play a game, etc.) Stress compromises the immune system greatly. Be realistic AND remain hopeful! There will be heavy change but that does not mean that the end of the world is in sight. You WILL be required to adapt, so practice flexibility. Learn skills such as vertical gardening/gardening, canning, etc. Learn how to shoot and prepare game if your location allows. Stock up on long shelf-life food, drinking water, and medical supplies. If on medication, see if you can stockpile as much as possible. Some MD’s that aren’t in denial as to what’s going on have been willing to double down on scrips so that folks can do this. Make a family plan incase you cannot reach each other. Meeting place, etc. Keep tank filled as much as possible and try to at least never let it drop below half full. If possible, stock up on 20+ gallons of extra fuel if you have a place NOT in your home that you can keep the tanks. Use a stabilizer for gas to increase its life. Learn basic emergency medicine and beyond if possible. Oh, and stock up on personal hygeine supplies and on medical supplies. Batteries, flashlights, oil lanterns, functional clothing for your environment. Pay down as much debt as possible. Form plan for staying put or getting out of dodge if you live in an urban area and have a place to go, go and have supplies at your destination as you can’t pack everything at a moment’s notice. Above all, trust your gut and stay alert and aware of what’s going on. If the unraveling really begins, it will go FAST. Oh, and have
    extra cash on hand if there is a “bank holiday”.

  205. hey youngsters, don’t worry because the economy is cyclical — save a little during the next boom!

    INTENSE — the secret chiefs will not let the American economy collapse like you fear. With China’s help (due to their self-interest) U.S. GDP will stabilize and then grow. This will be the worst recession in 50 years, not 100. I minored in macro-economics at University and actively read data and analysis as a hobby.

    What I am doing (laid off again recently):

    0. buy an extra can of food every week and set it aside in my personal food bank. also rice and pasta

    1. playing with linux on old computers (only costs bandwidth and blank cd media)

    2. downloading lots of media to justify spending money on an Internet connection

    3. I am going to go on a trip by greyhound bus and stay in a hostel (funded by unemployment)

    4. take a summer music class at community college

    5. file for bankruptcy when the laws are changed back

    6. start a company with some like minded friends (with no debt and if we can make it in these conditions we can in any)

    PS – this must be terrible for the normals, I live like ‘the big labowski’

  206. Cope through helping others.

    I’m a fan of the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program – which has helped me through helping others.


    Do Good While you Search and Help Big Brothers and Big Sisters

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