The inevitable collapse

In The Five Stages of Collapse, Russian-American researcher Dmitry Orlov predicts the collapse of the current global system, structured around financial speculation, indebtedness and depletion of natural resources

No, the world is not yet over. The end is not near. However, there are many people who foresee radical changes in the way in which humanity lives today. Among them is Dmitry Orlov. He wrote several books on the global systemic crisis, quite evident, but little discussed. The author does not venture to say when, but ensures that a planetary collapse is inevitable.

The five stages of collapse is the title of Orlov’s book, published in Brazil by Editora Revan. Summarizing his thesis: the industrial capitalist system, regulated by the United States and Europe, will suffer an impact and collapse. His arguments are convincing, and the innumerable examples he describes undoubtedly corroborate the support of his perspective. His books were successful in the US and his blog, accompanied by readers around the world, became a benchmark on the subject.

Orlov bet that the bankruptcy of the current financial model will start a cycle of disorganization of the whole society. In the book, in addition to economics, he discusses four other stages of collapse: commercial, political, social, and cultural. Divided into chapters that discuss each stage, his work is didactic. Writings are difficult to categorize. They go through politics, economics, sociology, but are filled with relevant historical examples.

The book’s subtitle is Toolkit for the survivor and he’s serious. Although he does not want to estimate when the disaster will occur, this Russian, who has emigrated to the United States as a child, prepares for it. “A lot of the preparation is psychological. It is very important not to be affected by a nervous breakdown when faced with a collapse, “he explains. He says that he lives in a self-sufficient sailing boat, which gives him mobility and offers a range of options to deal with unforeseen events.

Orlov believes that in order to deal with the future collapse, society must create new relationships and promote complete social and political restructuring. As a survival tip, he recommends that people organize themselves into small, self-sufficient groups to deal with the impact of change. Rural communities, neighborhood organizations, he said, will have a better chance of absorbing the global crisis.

Graduated in computer science and linguistics, for 25 years he has been dedicated to scientific research in the areas of energy physics and internet technology. Orlov reports that a visit to his native Russia in 1996 made him realize that what had happened with the Soviet Union – which he followed with special interest – was occurring with the US, albeit with a certain lapse of time: “Severe deficit in the production of crude oil, an aggravating foreign trade deficit, a huge military budget and crippling external debt, “he describes.

In a single paragraph, for example, he describes a historical sequence with striking objectivity: “And then came Western imperialism, and imperial nation-states were enriched by fossil fuel-based industrialization, monoculture economies to produce commodities, and captive markets to absorb manufactured goods. And finally, the global economy has arrived, with globalized finance, overlapping supply chains scattered across the globe, and outsourcing that shifts production to lower-cost countries. Transnational financial institutions and corporations have supplanted national governments as supreme centers of power. Huge trade imbalances are expressed in stacks of paper representing public debt, the value of which derives from the government’s ability to continue to take on more and more debt; this, in turn, is only possible when there is sustainable economic growth. ”

However, the global economy, after the 2008 crash, gives no sign of sustainability. Since then, according to the United Nations (2015) report, the average growth rate in developed economies has fallen by more than 54%. In these countries, unemployment affects about 44 million people, 12 million more than in 2007.

In addition to the economic crisis, global warming also sets historic records. The report released this week by NASA (Nasa) says that the month of January recorded a 1.13 degree increase in global temperature, especially in the Arctic. This after the nine-month run of above-average historical increases. The recent data quoted above are not contained in Orlov’s book, written in 2009. Seven years later, however, the problems pointed out by him have worsened and reiterate his predictions.

To survive chaos


“The ‘technosphere’ is a threat to the biosphere in many ways, but climate change, environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources are the three main”


Why do you think the global system will collapse?
I believe the global system is already collapsing. Global trade is regressing and the commodities market is very volatile. Nowadays, oil, specifically, is too expensive for consumers or too cheap for producers to avoid bankruptcy. Conventional oil production peaked in 2006. Since then, a deficit has been created because of unconventional oil – mainly shale oil and bituminous sands – in the US and Canada. Shale oil is a short-lived resource and seems to be at its peak right now, while tar sands are not profitable with the current low oil price.


His argument is based above all on the logic of industrial capitalism and especially on the US financial system, which has governed the global economy for decades. But capitalism has been constantly reforming. Why are we now in a dead end?
It’s a matter of scarcity. All natural non-renewable sources have been depleted on a large scale, making it impossible to operate an industrial economy. This is reflected in high commodity prices, which stagnated economic growth. There has been no real economic growth since the financial collapse of 2008. Since then, the total debt-to-GDP ratio in the world has risen and now approaches 300%. The burden of this debt is unsustainable and this deficit will never be repaid. When the debt bubble burst, banks around the world will become weakened and unable to honor counterparty banks’ letters of credit. Therefore, the goods will no longer be shipped. This, in turn, will disrupt the supply chains of the factories, making it impossible to manufacture products. This is the dead end.


How do you see the European movements – and not just there – that have questioned the current economic system, dominated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank?
Institutions run by the US (and, to a lesser extent, the European Union) have operated something that functions as a wealth bomb, extracting resources and money from developing nations and peripheral countries. In place of military and industrial colonialism, it is pure financial colonialism. This was established since the end of World War II, when the US put itself at a huge advantage over the rest of the world. Since the emergence of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and their ability to trade directly with one another, without passing through US-controlled intermediaries, the ability to extract resources has diminished in some way, but is still substantive. The worst position is that of the Eastern European countries (most of them former satellites of the Soviet Union, but also Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and the former Yugoslavia), which gave their sovereignty to Brussels bureaucrats, becoming vulnerable .


The democratic system of representation has been put in check. How do you see the future of democracy?
I see a bright future for direct democracy, practiced by small groups on the scale of neighborhoods or villages. These people have to be people who know each other personally, which limits the size of the group. Similar practices can be followed by groups of experts in cooperation. But I do not see hope in democracy as long as politics is professionalized and democratic participation is limited to squeezing a representative among a group of institutionally recognized candidates. For me, this is not democracy, it is more cattle grazing.


If we consider the bankruptcy of the current democratic system, what would be the options?
Given all that is happening in the world, I think a general setback is important. People should deal only with those they know personally and organize themselves around small groups able to defend each other and provide themselves with almost everything they need. Such groups can be democratic and reach consensual decisions. This is well conceived, and I have just published a book – Rob Strong – A Robust Path to a Different Future – which describes in detail such a system and the justification for it.


How do you see the role of the war industry in this context?
I see it as an epic battle between the “technosphere” and the “ecosphere”. It’s the subject of my next book – Shrinking the Technosphere – which will be published in the second half. If the “technosphere” prevails, the biosphere we need to live will be destroyed and we will all die. If the “technosphere” fails, many people who depend on it to survive (especially in cities) will die. But we have a choice: we can determine what kind of technology will serve our long-term interests and find ways to preserve them while we let others disappear. The “technosphere” is a threat to the biosphere in many respects, too many to mention, but climatic breakdown, environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources are the top three.


The migratory crisis in the Mediterranean Sea has been an example of how nation-states failed. Why does not this logic work anymore?
The number of nation-states that have become bankrupt states has grown every year. At this rate, in a few decades there will be no more nation-states left. The nation-state is a recent invention and apparently its usefulness has already become obsolete. What I believe to be hope for the future is a rebirth of regionalism – centered around groups with relatively small populations, whose main commitment is not with a state, but with a place, and more specifically, with everyone who lives there. What we see with the refugee crisis is the result of a process: first, a population with regional roots is drawn from its place to be absorbed by a nation-state. Then this nation-state succumbs, and this same population explodes across the old national borders made of castor bean seeds. This will lead to permanent conflict unless people find a way to re-establish themselves, root again, join those with affinities, and have a sense of commitment to a place and a people.


What are the biggest concerns to avoid a planetary disaster?
The main concerns are to anticipate a systemic failure of the financial system. We have seen a period of extremely high energy prices, which has flattened consumers around the world, caused a major financial collapse and can only be offset by a rapid rise in debt levels around the world, which leads to a that another financial collapse seems inevitable. Today, we are in a situation where oil producers are bankrupt and will not be able to sustain current production levels. This means that the price of oil will rise again, but this time there will be no reserves to cushion the impact. This can be a shock enough to undermine the whole system. Countries vital to the global energy system are collapsing. In Mexico, Pemex (state oil company), which has been the engine of the country’s economic development in the last decades, is disintegrating. Saudi Arabia, the largest oil exporter, is running out of money, water and healthy people, all at the same time. Venezuela is an economic disaster. How many failures will it take for the entire global energy system to stop working?


What is the role of Europe, Russia and China in this context?
Europe has been slow to realize that the European Union (EU) is essentially a failed experiment. In the more prosperous parts of the Euro Zone in the North, people have been too comfortable for too long and dependent on US-controlled politicians and media to realize what’s going on. In the meantime, Russia and China were able to gain time to grow and become independent. They have shifted away from the US and EU spheres. The US and the EU have recently been shocked to realize that NATO – even without spending huge amounts of money on defense – has no more military capability than Russia and China combined. If all goes well, awareness of this fact should limit any new NATO venture (as they did in Iraq, Libya, Ukraine and planned to do in Syria until Russia gets involved).


Want more?

Dmitry Orlov Made one Q/A on Reddit with lots of contend check it out.