Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Before The Collapse: The New Book by Ugo Bardi

My new book on collapse is out, published by Springer. You can find it at the Springer site at this link (priced in Euro) and at this link (priced in dollars). You can find it also on most Web sites that sell books.

Collapse is a popular subject nowadays, so I thought I could add some more confusion to the already ongoing mess by publishing this new book "Before the Collapse: A Guide to the Other Side of Growth."

If you follow the "Cassandra's Legacy" blog, you know that collapse is a subject that I touch frequently and that two years ago I published a book titled "The Seneca Effect," that made an explicit reference to the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca, whose work I took as the first mention in history of collapse as a normal feature of the universe. "The Seneca Effect" was not a difficult book to read but it was a technical book, dedicated to people interested in subjects such as system dynamics. It was also priced accordingly.

So, the second book was thought at the beginning as a simplified version of the first to be placed in the category of "trade books" destined to the general public (also at a lower price). But, eventually, as the text grew, it became a different book. It maintained some elements of the first, but it included new examples, new ideas, new subjects, and a new slant. It became a practical manual on how to deal with collapse, although it does not neglect some scientific elements of the story (and for this I have to thank my unicellular assistant, Amelia the Amoeba. You see her in the picture on the right, as she appears in the book. She is a nice girl except for her habit of eating human brains, but - hey! - nobody's perfect!)

So, the choice of the title, "Before the Collapse," to emphasize that we still have time to prepare for "The Other Side of Growth," the dreaded social and climatic collapse that, by now, appears unavoidable. Yes, but that doesn't mean we have to fall into the doom and gloom attitude that seems to be spreading among those who take the time to examine the situation. The gist of the book is that collapse is not an exceptional event, it is the way the universe works (collapse is not a bug, it is a feature). It is the way the universe uses to get rid of the old to make space for the new. And we badly need to get rid of the old things and ideas that have led us to where we are. As someone said, "collapse early and avoid the rush!" So, sometimes you can't avoid collapse, but you can always be prepared for it.

But "BTC" is not just about the "big one," the civilization collapse that we are fearing so much and for good reasons. Collapse, it seems, has a certain fractal character. There are big and small collapses and the small ones are more frequent and can affect anyone. So, BTC tries to help the reader to navigate among the perilous cliffs of life that involve such things as bankruptcy, natural disasters, structural collapses, wars (large and small), social unrest, business competition, zombie apocalypses and more. It is a sort of a smorgasbord of collapses: there is something for everyone.

Writing a book is a big effort and once you have a printed copy in your hand you always feel like you would have written it in a different way if you were to start anew. But books are books, this one is written and I hope you'll like it. I dedicated it to my two granddaughters, Aurora and Beatrice, who were both born while it was being written. While writing, I couldn't' avoid realizing that their life will be most likely way more "bumpy" than ours, but I don't despair for their future. Humans are an adaptable species and our descendants will adapt to the mess their ancestors created and, I hope, will find ways to clean it up.

And so, onward, fellow humans!


  1. Felicitaciones, desde Argentina

  2. I like what archaeologist Joseph Tainter argues in The Collapse of Complex Societies regarding whether collapse is catastrophic or not. He seems to suggest that 'collapse' is an economic choice made by people who withdraw support from investing further in supporting sociopolitical complexity because the return on their investment has declined or diminished to the point where they are investing far more than they receive back in benefits. From this perspective, it would seem that many (at least those not in the political class that are receiving others' 'investments') may actually benefit from withdrawing their support of the sociopolitical system. The subsequent collapse is far more catastrophic, it would seem, for those who were benefitting from the system than for those who were not. Modern times, however, may be somewhat different given the complexity of the other systems that most have come to depend upon for their existence: very few people in 'modern' society are capable of feeding themselves should the food production and distribution systems we have created falter; or if the energy systems stop functioning.

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    1. Interesting thoughts.

      In the Koran it says that Allah declares to Man:

      'I was Hidden Treasure, seeking to be known.'

      Mankind(Hom.Sap.) is, perhaps, in total, merely a (necessarily flawed) mechanism for generating this self-knowledge for a short time only, for purposes we can only surmise.....?

  8. Ugo et al
    Thinking of your example of the 2018 Morandi Bridge collapse, i am wondering how Boeing will cope with their present difficulty.The investment needed these days to maintain a future anything like the present and recent past is colossal, with very extended lead times.

  9. Aquinius - interesting comments. Some observations in reply- as i see it the number (more precisely, the order of infinity or cardinality) of open questions in the universe is very high. So the relationship of the number of open questions to the number of closed questions is unboundedly greater than 1:1. I am trying to convey here something like the relationship between the number of transcendental numbers and other numbers on the number line - we may think of the number line as consisting of the commonly known integers rationals and irrationals as filling the line but in fact they don't count for any measurable space on the line, we need an order of infinity far greater to get any space on the line at all and this is provided by the transcendentals which are commonly perceived as being quite scarce.
    So as I see it the number(set )(cardinality) of open questions is space filling in the question space of the universe, whereas the number of closed questions is incapable of space filling.
    It follows that i see the schema of the universe you are propounding as an attempt to fill the question space of the universe with a set of closed questions and that this is not at all possible.
    I do agree with many of your observations.

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  11. Re: 2 sentences at the end "While writing, I couldn't' avoid realizing that their life will be most likely way more "bumpy" than ours, but I don't despair for their future. Humans are an adaptable species and our descendants will adapt to the mess their ancestors created and, I hope, will find ways to clean it up."
    Surely either you have noticed something 'real' in this very world, some embryonic phenomena, in that case please enlighten, or, sir, you are telling this intuitively, in that case too there are some 'grounds' for this optimism, and please share with us, readers. Of course, sir, you can tell me to wait for your article on that subject. Hopeful that the Furies will teach humans how to mend.

  12. Ugo, I very much look forward to your new book. I am living and talking about my life in a blog. I am not a writer like you but I do map out my experiences and conclusions of the collapse process for the honest and awakened. I have been an evolving green doomer and prepper since 2000. A key component of my REAL Green is what your book talks about. REAL Green is about now which is a collapse process without the big event most think about when they hear collapse. My REAL Green says collapse now in place with dignity that comes with finding meaning. Collapse now leveraging the current status quo to leave it. They key to all this is behavior first then techno solutions or the wisdom to reject false solutions. There is no transcendence but there is transformation. realgreenadaptation.blog



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014). His most recent book is "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017)