collapse: 1.) to fall in or together; cave in suddenly; shrink together abruptly. 2.) to fail utterly
decline: 1.) to bend downward; droop. 2.) to draw to a close; fail; decay; disintegrate.
The Winston Dictionary, Advanced Edition, 1946.
If I should ask you how you think our society might end, how would you reply? Collapse or decline? Maybe a combination of both? I've been asking this question to people for a very long time, over 25 years as a matter of fact. Perhaps, you think our civilization will last forever. Whatever "camp" you may be hanging out in, this question is pretty hypothetical and there's a message here for everyone.
As you might expect, I've received a variety of answers over the years. Some reply, oh you mean, w.t.s.h.t.f., (when the shit hits the fan)? Or the ever popular, t.e.o.t.w.a.w.k.i., (the end of the world as we know it). One thing these people have in common, is they see this as an event. Civilization or society would likely end suddenly, in a matter of days, months or years. This best describes, "collapse".
Then there are people who believe we've been declining for awhile now or soon will begin to decline. For the most part, these people believe our society will decline a little bit at a time, something like going down a staircase. There's also people who think as we descend, we'll see periods of recovery only to eventually take another step down. Eventually it would take, 50 years, 100 years, 200 years or even longer when civilization as we know it, might have had it's run. This best describes, "decline".
Of course, there are those people who believe our descent, will come from a combination of decline that leads to collapse. For what it's worth, I'm probably part of this group of people. I envision many parts of society declining to the point it will eventually collapse. There may be periods of recovery or some sort of stabilization, but declines will mount bringing yet another collapse. Series of collapses until our society changes enough to become sustainable.
Quite naturally, there are a lot of people who think, things will go on as usual. For the most part they see society as ever improving, since the "stone age". Technology through innovation, will keep our society ever advancing.
Since I'm on the topic of asking hypothetical questions, I'll ask one more. If you could describe one thing that we'd be without in such a descending scenario, what would it be? This is were it gets interesting... All of the above groups of people have a common answer, they would envision the power being out...... What do we make of that? Seems most people can agree on that!
Over at BNB (Bullnotbull.com), I likened our society to fall like a house of cards and that through the loss of electrical generation would bring about collapse. My friend Kentar, held another view, he likened our society to slowly decline as an old house might eventually cave in. That even though the interior walls collapsed, still this left the attic and possibly the basement still intact and might actually be livable. Furthermore, he believed that our society would eventually build in population again and has actually done this before in human history! How interesting! I had never in my life heard such a claim! Even though I was going to present a case of 95% reduction in the human population, this is hardy what you would call extinction level with remaining 5% left alive. I thought it was possible that there would be other civilizations that would evolve using what resources were left from this one and that perhaps this might happen again in the far future.
In the coming weeks ahead, we'll explore of what life might be like without power......