The Age of Limits
Conversations on the Collapse of The Global Industrial Model

Friday May 25th thru Monday May 28th, 2012, at Four Quarters Sanctuary in Artemas, Pennsylvania

We’ve all experienced it: the kind of conversation everyone knows has to happen sooner or later, and nobody wants to have to face. Casual talk edges around it, jokes fail to get a laugh because they brush too close to it, silences open up because there’s no way to keep talking without crossing that line and facing it openly. Then, finally, somebody draws in a deep breath and says the thing that has to be said; chairs get pulled closer around into a circle, and a sense of relief cuts through the discomfort as the conversation begins at last.

That’s the kind of conversation we need to have now, and the subject is the end of industrial society.

Our entire society has been edging around that conversation uncomfortably for decades now. There’s been plenty of talk about the mismatch between popular fantasies of perpetual growth and the hard limits of a finite planet, to be sure, but nearly all of that talk has treated the mismatch as a problem that can be solved by some gimmick without giving up either the extravagant lifestyles we’re used to, on the one hand, or the hope of a decent life for our descendants on the other. Year after year, we’ve heard the same weary chatter about technological breakthroughs, great social movements, transformations in consciousness, and the rest of it; year after year, we’ve all heard the equal and opposite chatter about the overnight catastrophes that will relieve us of responsibility for the future our own choices are creating, for us and for our grandchildren’s grandchildren; and too many people manage not to notice that neither the breakthroughs nor the catastrophes ever get around to happening, while the jaws of our predicament close more and more tightly around us.

Off beyond the daydreams of progress and apocalypse stands the shape of the future that always comes to civilizations that overshoot their resource base–a shape that’s called decline. Mention that in most circles these days, and you’ll get the nervous silence or the too-loud rebuttal that tells you that you’ve strayed across the line and mentioned the theme of the conversation everybody’s trying to avoid. The decline of industrial society is a reality we are already facing, as real incomes shrink, quality-of-life indexes stumble downhill, and high-end technological projects such as the space program wind down. As resources keep on depleting and wastes build up, in turn, the decline is accelerating, and it’s a safe bet at this point that much of what counts as an ordinary life in today’s industrial nations will go away forever in the decades ahead of us. The time to prevent that was thirty years ago, and we didn’t. It really is as simple as that.

Thus it’s time to stop pretending that the future we’ve spent so much time making for ourselves can be made to go away. It’s time to get past the gaudy technologies that nobody’s gotten around to building, the idealized energy sources that don’t happen to work in the real world, the would-be mass movements that attract the usual handful of activists and nobody else, and all the rest of it. It’s time to talk instead about the things that actually matter in the age of limits that’s coming on the heels of the age of excess now ending — about what can be saved, what must be let go, and what options might enable individuals, families, and communities to make it through the troubled years ahead.

That sort of talk isn’t well suited to the comfortable distance provided by electronic media or the yawning gap between the speaker’s lectern and the rows of chairs for the audience. A good part of it needs to take place in person, face to face with old friends, new friends, and people you might never have considered worth including in the discussion, but whose points of view can teach you something you need to know. It requires a willingness to use frank words about hard realities — overshoot, decline, collapse — without discarding the compassion that reminds us of what these realities will mean for the people caught up in them. That’s the conversation that needs to happen now, as the age of limits begins, and it’s the conversation a number of us hope to launch and to foster at the Age of Limits conference this Memorial Day weekend.

If that’s a conversation you’re ready to face, pull up a chair and join in. We have a lot to talk about.

The Age of Limits Conference (May 25-28)

For 50 years serious thinkers have questioned the assumptions of our global industrial culture and its prospects over the longer term. In recent decades they have succeeded in bringing at least some of the core science into popular discussion, notably petroleum depletion and especially climate change. Through these years proposals have been made outlining the governmental policies that would be necessary to begin “solving” these problems. Sadly, we can now see through the course of events, or rather non-events, that the window of opportunity is closing, if not already closed. We are now confronted not by a problem, but by a predicament; one which has no solution, but only adaptations and mitigations.

Environmental Degradation and Resource Depletion.
Global Population Growth and Demographics.
Rentier Debt and Growth Based Finance. Global Climate Change.
A world now reaching The Limits of Growth on a Finite Earth.

·In-Depth Conversations With:

John Michael Greer: Scholar and author of more than twenty books on a wide range of subjects, including The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age, The Ecotechnic Future: Exploring a Post-Peak World, and The Wealth of Nature: Economics As If Survival Mattered.

Carolyn Baker Ph.D.: Professor of history and psychology, psychotherapist and author of Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Handbook For Inner Transition and Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse.

Dmitry Orlov: Essayist, wry social commentator and author of the acclaimed Reinventing Collapse – The Soviet Experience and American Prospects.

Gail Tverberg: Professional Actuary and Mathematician, global limits analyst and writer.

Thomas Whipple: Retired senior analyst for the CIA and a well known researcher and writer on energy and oil issues, Chief Editor of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil-USA’s flagship publication, Peak Oil News and Review.

More information at

The Age of Limits is organized by Four Quarters InterFaith, the Mid-Atlantics’ nonprofit center supporting nature based spirituality and sustainable living techniques. Located just 100 miles from the DC metro area, our center is off-grid and we provide our campers with advanced flush toilet, hot shower and drinking water systems.

Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary
190 Walker Lane Artemas PA