The World According to The Automatic Earth – A 2013 Primer Guide


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    Nicole Foss

    Dorothea Lange River Food June 1936 Memphis, Tennessee. Original caption: "Coon dawgling." The Automatic Earth (TAE) is now five years old (
    [See the full post at: The World According to The Automatic Earth – A 2013 Primer Guide]


    thank you Stoneleigh for this and all the other posts at The Automatic Earth.

    We need your help to understand what is happening and ways to make our paths to follow in the future of energy shortages, capital shortage and food shortages.

    Things are going to become local and much more meaningful lives
    will be lead.


    Thanks for a great resume and some new thoughts.

    I can’t underestimate the extent to which your analysis has influenced my directions here in Costa Rica.

    You’re always welcome here at Pueblo Verde.


    HI Stoneleigh and Ilargi,

    Happy 5th Birthday!

    Stoneleigh, this is a great distillation of the pertinent points. For those (like me) who wondered what ‘thirds and fourths’ were, check out this site:

    Instead of working in gangs as they had on antebellum plantations, the freedmen became tenants. The planter or landowner assigned each family a small tract of land to farm and provided food, shelter, clothing, and the necessary seeds and farm equipment. When the crop was harvested, the planter or landowner took the cotton to market and after deducting for the “furnish” (the cost of the items the tenant had been furnished during the year), gave half of the proceeds to the tenant. This arrangement became known as sharecropping.
    In the decades after Reconstruction tenancy and sharecropping became the way of life in the Cotton Belt. By 1930 there were 1,831,470 tenant farmers in the South. What began as a device to get former slaves back to work became a pernicious system that entrapped white as well as black farmers. After 1900 the number of white tenant farmers grew alarmingly. By 1935 nearly half of white farmers and 77 percent of black farmers in the country were landless.
    As farm tenancy grew, a tenancy ladder evolved. From the bottom rung, the hapless sharecropper could climb to share tenant if he could accumulate enough of his own equipment and money. Share tenants kept two-thirds or three-fourths of the crop, depending on how much they could furnish. If a share tenant progressed to a point of needing nothing but the land, he could become a cash tenant by paying a fixed rental. Cash tenants kept all of the proceeds from the crop.

    It also goes on to say how people got into the dire circumstances they found themselves in. For me this is a typical example of the industrial mindset applied in this case to agriculture, with the myth of ‘infinite competition’ versus a monopoly, in this case the old monopoly of slavery (note: for the actors there was little difference in terms of welfare and wellbeing) (this is one of Steve Keens arguments for debunking neo-classical economics in his book “Debunking Economics” ), and the ‘mono-culture’ approach to everything – there is only one way that typifies industrialism. This is Vandana Shiva’s ‘mono-cultures of the mind’:

    One area of hope comes from the fact that the trajectories that have been laid out by these monopolizing monoculture minds are so nonsustainable that something will have to happen. The system will crack. When you industrialize food and farming too much, there will be outbreaks of disease. People will want local, organic food as a secure supply. Alternatives are built into the very logic of the system because it’s designed to fail and will lead to environmental catastrophe.
    The second reason I’m hopeful is the work we are doing. We begin with tiny steps. We say, OK, there are suicides of farmers. Let’s take ten quintals (1,000 kg.) of wheat to the farmers of Punjab. They’re not satisfied with ten. They want a hundred. We rush back and multiply seeds again. Wherever there are initiatives to build sustainable, just, democratic systems, they are spreading like wildfire.
    People want another world, and they’re building it. People’s love for freedom is more powerful than any coercive authority. That love for freedom is more powerful than the love of the dominators who are trying to control the planet.

    Stoneleigh, on your foray into Permaculture, may I humbly suggest you check out Masanobu Fukuoka’s (died 2008 aged 95) “One Straw Revolution” and if you can find it his “Natural Farming”; also Sepp Hoplzer’s (very much alive) “Rebel Farmer” to see just how hard one man has had to fight the ‘authorities’ to build a true polyculture farm. Sepp Holzer’s multi decade farming experience has changed many times over the years, but the key was always diversity. And not forgetting the Uk’s own Robert Hart, whose Forest Garden is often the basis of many Permaculture projects in the UK.

    One thing on the three ‘Es’ of Economy, Energy and Environment, is that I suspect we will not get one after the other, but rather one feeding into the others, thus while we currently have an economic crisis, energy is now feeding into that crisis and causing greater disruption. So too as we go further down the road the environmental crisis (here I am referring to things like ocean depletion and pollution, soil erosion, groundwater and aquifer depletion amongst many others never talked about) will feed into the other two and together will form a maelstrom of consequences.

    The other thing is population, which when combined with the above three Es produces a giant EEEP!

    Good luck for the next five years!



    Nicole, thank you thank you thank you for this synopsis.

    Nothing has shaken my economic views as much as your simple statement “given that demand is not what one wants, but what one can pay for” (which I have written down to share with everyone I know that seem to have drunk the koolaid of a guaranteed ever expanding, ever improving lifestyle.)

    I quit reading TAE for months as I had high hopes the Mayan Calender was gonna create a major reboot and because most of TAE is WAY over my head. However, this 2013 primer really helps define the scope and intent of your and Ilargi’s warnings.

    Demand having been indelibly re-defined, I would like to also share another epiphany I had when listening to Amy Chua (of Tiger-Mom fame) give a lecture regarding the success of the Roman Empire because of its program of ‘tolerance’ (as well as ‘romanizing’ conquered people). I realized for the first time that tolerance is NOT a positive attribute, but is actually a means of gaining some advantage while still detesting the other party!

    So armed with these 2 rather strong eye-opening examples of improper, working definitions, I have to wonder what other mis-assumptions I have that are limiting my worldview and choices.

    In the meantime, NPR is running a series of broadcasts that compares Puerto Rico to Greece. Seems to be getting awfully close.

    Dig Dirt

    It was David Holmgren’s book Permaculture , Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability that really got me started on the road of self-reliance and meeting the needs to sustain my (and my family’s) existence and it was Nicole and Raul’s work that kicked me in the arse by hitting the panic button. After nearly 4 years of reading TAE my debts are now below $50k, I live in an strawbale house (built by yours truly-with no prior experience mind you) with all water in dams or tanks and lots of other self-reliant measures in place.
    Nicole has said that by paying rent you are paying the landowner a fee for taking on the risk of debt – and I believe that to be true but I am now in the process of trying to mitigate against our debt by building a seperate dwelling to rent out should servicing our debt become difficult. In any case I am feeling a little nervous (like most) but so much more prepared and motivated because of the great work by TAE. I hope you both enjoyed the Chocolate Euro coin I gave you while in Daylesford Australia. Thank you Thank you. You guys have to be my favourite Brain-Nerds in the world!


    Well thanks for five years of scaring the pants off of me…I feel like I am trying to get my ship out to sea before the tsunami hits but just can’t…I have remained relatively debt free but I work as an electrician and I have been trying to get a government job but so far no luck…I need income coming in. I see this storm hitting pretty soon….


    In response to the previous post “I need income coming in” Since our family lives on a very small income, I feel perhaps I can offer some practical advice. Rule #1 – you need very little income once you own your own accomodation – this of course need not be a house in suburbia – a well found trailer on a good site would do for many of us. #2 – once you need very little income a small part time job – EVEN for minimum wages will provide plenty of cash to live on. #3 If at all possible build safe income earning capital, perhaps you own an asset that is in fact a costly expense ie: nice truck, sell truck, buy good bike and shoes, invest money in high interest savings account – earn 2% on capital (not great with inflation around 1%, but with deflation this money may be worth much more in the future #4 grow food, not by using the Lee Valley catalogue to spend thousands on pretty stuff, but by opening up some ground and putting seeds/transplants in – you will get healthy farming, healthy eating and all for a few dollars in seeds. #5 If you are this far and have capital to invest, think about investing in your OWN utility – PV electricity has become CHEAP, it is easy to install and almost maintenance free and you will NEVER get another hydro bill – while reducing your carbon emissions – in fact all of the above are part of a low carbon lifestyle #6 Now with a very low cost of living you can declare yourself mostly retired and stop worrying about your financial future – a small life is a much safer position to be in. The above is a structured simplification of one path to safety/freedom – one we followed and I am happy to report it has been successful. Everyone’s path is different both whence they came, where they are and where they are going – and must be adapted to a rapidly changing world. For one example of a mini life go to GOOOOOOO Nicole!

    Formerly T-Bear

    So it’s been five years of The Automatic Earth, tempus fugit.

    What would that be in Yankee Years?

    Thank you for all your efforts, they are truly appreciated.

    All the best……….

    Nicole Foss


    I would be happy to come to Costa Rica. One of our readers had mentioned perhaps organizing an event there. I’ll be close by in Belize for the second half of this month. I’m hoping to get a feel for central America while I’m there.

    Nicole Foss

    Thank you all for the kind words 🙂


    Though the financial system appears to have low stability and you stated that you agree with Bill Gross, your conclusions are opposite of his.
    He predicts inflation, not deflation
    He says to buy commodities, you say to sell them.

    All the advice one could want. I’ll just watch Doomsday Preppers on TV, it is entertaining.


    Thanks Nicole, that’s a very useful summary and link guide. I’ll pass it on to my network. I’ve become increasingly convinced of your view over the last few years. In the Austin, TX area there are a vast number of folks going local in hundreds of ways. My end of it is networking with food growers and helping get folks started who haven’t done much of that. I’m retired from electronics manufacturing and have a good deal of time to participate. Here’s one of my hobbies, distributing Garden Towers, essentially at cost.


    The AUTOMATIC EARTH is doing a great job.

    Here is a similar site.

    With enough good data, it is possible to increase the reliability of of projected trends.


    The NASA Near Earth Object Observation (NEOO) Program detects and tracks asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using ground- and space-based telescopes. The network of projects supported by this program, commonly called “Spaceguard,” discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them and plots their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

    Asteroid 2012 DA14 is about 150 feet (45 meters) in diameter. It is expected to fly about 17,200 miles (27,000 kilometers) above Earth’s surface at the time of closest approach, which is about 11:25 a.m. PST (2:25 p.m. EST) on Feb. 15. This distance is well away from Earth and the swarm of low Earth-orbiting satellites, including the International Space Station, but it is inside the belt of satellites in geostationary orbit (about 22,200 miles, or 35,800 kilometers, above Earth’s surface.) The flyby of 2012 DA14 is the closest-ever predicted approach to Earth for an object this large.

    NASA Moderator: Asteroid 2012 DA14 is small, so even though it will make a close flyby of Earth, the asteroid’s apparent magnitude is expected to peak at about only 7.4 – too dim to be viewed by the naked eye. To view the asteroid, you will need a good pair of binoculars, or even better, a moderately powered telescope. During the closest approach, and depending on local weather, the asteroid will be visible from parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. The asteroid will appear to be moving relatively quickly as it crosses the sky from the south to the north.

    NASA statement on Russian meteor:

    “According to NASA scientists, the trajectory of the Russian meteorite was significantly different than the trajectory of the asteroid 2012 DA14, making it a completely unrelated object. Information is still being collected about the Russian meteorite and analysis is preliminary at this point. In videos of the meteor, it is seen to pass from left to right in front of the rising sun, which means it was traveling from north to south. Asteroid DA14’s trajectory is in the opposite direction, from south to north.”


    I’ve been reading financial blogs for a couple years now and can honestly say that I feel have learned far far more in the last couple hours than all my previous years reading. It has all suddenly just clicked (even if it’s really scary). Thank you!

    I do have one question I hope you might find the time to answer. You were both clearly worried about another even bigger crash after the 2008 crisis, but somehow governments seem to have kept the economy going on what seems to amount to little more than an expert PR campaign and keeping people in the dark about the true nature of the calamity we face.

    While it’s impossible to make predictions regarding the unfolding of economic events, would you say you are more/less worried about the coming crisis than you were in say 2009/2010 and do you think governments have a chance of keeping the status quo for another few years as they have done since 2008?

    Nicole Foss


    The crisis of 2008 isn’t over. What we were concerned about then is still very much on the cards. We’ve had a longer reprieve than we had expected in between phase I and phase II of the credit crunch, but that reprieve appears to be over. There are strong signals of an impending market reversal, indicating a coming shift from euphoria to concern and then to fear. The optimism we see at the moment is simply characteristic of a top. Things always look really good from the peak of a bubble, but at that point there’s nowhere to go but down.

    Governments are not in control. It only looks that way when people are collectively optimistic, generating a temporary self-fulfilling prophecy to the upside. Once optimism becomes pessimism, their powerlessness in the face of a self-fulfilling prophecy to the downside will be obvious.

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