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Collapse of society – how to spot it and how to prepare

What is Collapse?

Collapse, in the context of this subreddit, is the devolution of our civilization from a complex state into a much simpler one, economically, socially, politically, and technologically. Depending on the cause and process of collapse, such a devolution could be quick or slow, orderly or chaotic, and willing or unwilling.

When does the collapse hit?

This is tricky to answer. A common saying on /r/collapse is that “the collapse is here, it’s just not widely distributed yet” (modifying William Gibson’s quote). “The Collapse” means different things to different people. If you have been unemployed since the Great Recession began in 2007/2008, it might feel like collapse has hit. Others have been minorly inconvenienced. Does the collapse mean Peak Oil, an EMP or nuclear attack, or a generations-long slide into a future which just becomes slightly worse every year? All of these scenarios (and more) have different timeframes. It’s best to read widely on the various factors and come to your own conclusions as to when the collapse arrives, according to your definition. Many scenarios for collapse are considered to be “inevitable” (e.g. Peak Oil, economic collapse), but that doesn’t mean that anyone can predict a timeframe for them.

James Howard Kunstler’s answer is “we’re in the zone”. That is: collapse is happening.

A key message of his book The Long Emergency is that this isn’t a short-term affair that’s going to happen one day and be done with in a week, though parts of it may well evolve quickly. Rather, it’s a long-term and permanent transition of humanity and civilization from one state of existence to another (possibly none).

Joseph Tainter, speaking on his book The Collapse of Complex Societies describes collapse as a political porcess, with consequences in other area: economics, art, and literature, for example. His definition:

A society has collapsed when it displays a rapid, significant loss of an established level of sociopolitical complexity.

He further defines complexity in terms of both number, distinct types, and relationships between, components.

Tainter speaks of collapse happening on the scale of decades, possibly centuries. Though others observe that worldwide and advanced technological societies may well collapse faster than civilizations of old.

Rather than focus on specifically when collapse happens, which is profoundly difficult given complexities and nonlinearities, it may be more useful to consider what the signs of impending collapse are, and how collapse is likely to progress.

What will the collapse look like?

Again, nobody can tell you this with 100% certainty. It could look like the world outside right now, or like Cormac McCarthy’sThe Road, or something in between. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the resources below, and educate yourself as to a variety of scenarios.

So what should I be doing to prepare?

Prepare for whatever you consider to be the most likely form of collapse. For many, this means basic emergency-preparedness type of preparing. A supply of food and water, an emergency kit, first-aid training and resources, etc… can be useful in a wide range of circumstances. Depending on your area, preparing for various types of natural disasters can be prudent. Others develop hobbies or other preparations that will be useful whether a collapse or disaster hits or not. Examples of this include: brewing beer, gunsmithing, hunting and fishing, camping, etc…

It’s always a good idea to get involved with your neighbors and community as well. This builds your integration and importance to the community, and you might make some important connections with others in your local area. Again, this is good advice whether or not a collapse hits.

How do I convince my family / friends about collapse?

People have to come to an understanding on their own. Dmitry Orlov addresses this as his first of four questions:

In many cases I don’t think it’s possible to communicate the reality of collapse to family and friends, because some people are simply unable to shake themselves loose from the dominant paradigm of endless growth, and will go to their graves believing that a return to growth is just around the corner, regardless of all evidence to the contrary.

The trick is to have a consistent message and to not overstate the situation. Anyone who remembers your position from a few years ago, and can see that your story for how the world works is more consistent with reality than the mainstream story, is going to become your ally. Trying to convince people quickly is counterproductive.

Peak oil



Climate Change

General Preparation

Food: farming & gardening,



Health & Medicine,



Recycling & Scavenging


Trading, Black Markets & Bartering

Uncategorized questions

Unstructured, newly added questions from a search of the subreddit. This or similar searches may be used to further develop this FAQ.

Questions should be organized and thinned down.

Collapse Scenarios

Uncategorized “when…?”

Uncategorized “where…?”

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