During this course I've read the book Kollaps: livet vid civilisationens slut (Collapse: Life at the end of civilisation) by David Jonstad (http://libris.kb.se/bib/12341653). It has proven to be a good companion during the course and has had a somewhat similar chronology. I would like to take this opportunity to give you a short summary and my views of this book.
The book begins by summing up what has lead us to the brink of collapse. As you might expect, this first part is about peak oil, peak everything and us picking the "low hanging fruits". At the same time this has created a ever increasing growth. These factors in turn lead to an unequal world where wealth is amassed in the rich part of the world and production is done in the poor part of the world. The equality issue together with the triple-E-crisis (energy, ecology, economy) can only result in one thing: collapse.
So, what do we know about collapse? Jonstad spends the second part of the book about the collapse of complex societies in history. The Roman empire and its emperors tackled every crisis by adding more complexity: more advanced administration and bureaucracy. The people involved in this administration, an emerging middle class, had to get their food from others by increased taxes and invasion of foregin territory. The increased flow of money forced the emperors to reduce the amount of precious metals in coins creating inflation. The "hordes of barbarians" had to be kept out by investing in a large army. Jonstad tells a similar story about the Mayan empire. We all know that these societies or civilisations collapsed and Jonstad argues that it was the ever-increasing complexity that is the reason.
So how might we make our society more resilient to a collapse? The third and last part of the book is about the future. Jonstad offers critique of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (Myndigheten för samhällsskydd och beredskap) and argues that Sweden can't cope with more than two weeks without electricity on a regional level. The batteries and generators that keep the banks' databases going won't keep up that long. Sweden doesn't keep any food or water reserves that would last for long if the international distribution lines would be cut off. In short: we are not a resilient society. To be more resilient and more sustainable we need to increase our self-sustainability, both on local, regional and national levels.
So what do I feel after reading such a book? Well, I don't feel depressed and I don't feel like I've turned into a prepper. But I do feel that I would like to improve my possibilities of self-sustainability. It doesn't mean that I will turn my back on society and move to a bunker in Värmland. What I would like is to learn some skills that will make me and my family more resilient. I am planning to do some more serious growing at our cottage (kale seems like a good place to start). Also, I will do my best to avoid debts.
It was nice to read this book in parallel with the course as its content overlapped a lot. But I would still recommend it to anyone interested in sustainability. If you would like to read it you can borrow it from me (after Evert's done with it) so that we can prove that paper is still more sustainable than e-books... ;)