In 2005 he began giving a talk called "The Collapse Gap," suggesting not only that the United States could similarly implode but that Americans are far less prepared than Russians were. He found fans in peak oil authors like James Howard Kunstler, and spun his talks into an entertaining book, "Reinventing Collapse," which came out last year.
I had a chance to talk and sit in workshops with Orlov during the conference, and he is the same offstage as on -- intelligent, dour, darkly humourous. His unromantic, survivalist view of the future sometimes clashes with advocates of allotments and wind farms -- his talk included a gentle dig at the Transition Town movement, for example. Even if I reserve more hope for the future, he keeps the rest of us grounded.
Here are a few notes from Orlov's talk -- paraphrases, not actual quotes.
Right now we are in a situation of societal overextension. Life at $100,000 a year becomes unsustainable – life at $10,000 a year is much more sustainable.
The oil price spike in 2008 crashed the economy, much as the price spikes of the 1970s did, and in both cases the crash seemed to take place when the price of oil reached about 25 percent of global GDP – that seems to be the threshold.
We will lose our money, but there are different ways to do so. We should try not to lose our money all at once. We should try to stay out of harm’s way during the time of social chaos, and we should devote part of whatever land we have to sustainable use – woods, things like that.
We must lock down our resources, meaning mainly land, and invest in personal and group self-sufficiency. Do not hoard objects that will have limited usefulness – consumer goods, precious metals and so on. Instead, hoard objects that will have a high use value later, and decouple from the global economy as much as possible.
It is insane to sink our investment in things we don’t need, like a car industry, and not in things we will need, like health care.
By 2010-2020 we will see even steeper declines, with the natural world still largely intact. By 2020-2030 we should start seeing the destruction of much of what is left of the natural world.
No one will be able to say when the collapse happened for the world, everyone will only know when it happened to them. Some people will do better than others, leading many to deny that a wholesale collapse is taking place.
There are certain personality types who fare better than others in a collapse. People who continue with their lives indifferent to a larger catastrophe will fare well, as will people who are determined to do well, and people who are somewhat unreasonable. People who want to please everyone are likely to do poorly.
Money will be less available in the future, but there are other bases for a market. Gift-giving builds relationships and involves obligation in a way that money does not. Barter is also a useful method.
Many people will continue to have a belief in science and technology, not realising that technology requires energy, and that science is not based in belief.
Finally, we have been brought up as factory-farmed humans – institutionalised in schools, in jobs, and in other processed forms of interaction. We need to gradually become free-range humans.